As a pet owner, you must understand that just like humans, animals can also experience emotional distress. One of the major culprits behind it can be behavioral problems like separation anxiety.
If your dog becomes excessively agitated when left alone, it might be a sign that they are suffering from separation anxiety. If not addressed, this problem can pose a huge threat to your pet's well-being. Hence, taking proper measures to alleviate separation anxiety in dogs is crucial.
With that said, let’s discuss some practical tips to help your furry friend overcome the fear of being alone. But first, we will briefly explore the anxiety-triggering factors and symptoms to let you evaluate your pet’s situation better.
Common Behaviors Indicating Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety occurs when the dog that is overly attached to their guardian becomes distressed when they leave. If your dog follows you everywhere in the house, rarely plays by themselves, and doesn't like to be left alone when outside, then your pup may already have or may develop separation anxiety.
These dogs usually have low social skills with other dogs and depend on their guardian for most of their needs. If you have a dog that is heavily dependent on you for everything, they may begin unhealthy behaviors when you leave. Separation anxiety can be best described by seeing and understanding the behaviors:
Urinating or defecating whenever you leave them alone.
Display of uneasiness by barking and howling constantly after you leave.
Chewing on furniture, home decor and other personal items when left alone. This type of behavior can be dangerous and harmful for your dog (swallowing items or injuries by sharp pieces).
Your dog may try to find an escape when left alone. This means they will try to dig through doors and windows to find a way out.
Another sign that is clear evidence of separation anxiety in dogs is walking along a particular path in a similar pattern or pacing. For example, it may trot in circles or go forth and back in straight lines.
One of the most worrisome signs of this pet disorder is coprophagia. It means your dog will defecate in your absence and eat the waste. This is extremely dangerous and may lead to several bacterial diseases.
Shaking, shivering, drooling, becoming withdrawn, lack of appetite, and restlessness can also be anxiety behaviors.
Factors Triggering Anxiety in Dogs
According to studies, dogs who have been abandoned by their owners and adopted again from shelters might display signs of separation anxiety. This is because they lost an important person in their life and being left by their new owner, even just for the day, can be a primary trigger of their separation anxiety.
However, that is not the only possible trigger for your pup. If they didn't get adopted, other factors can still cause them to develop separation anxiety behaviors:
If the dog’s schedule or routine changes abruptly, it might display behaviors of separation anxiety.
Changing its long-term residence and shifting to a new place can also be a significant trigger.
Dogs can also develop separation anxiety if any member of your family whom it sees daily suddenly disappears.
If you travel often and leave them with pet sitters, they may begin to get anxious when you are gone.
Dogs that have experienced scary events while being home alone. This could be fireworks, thunderstorms, visitors knocking on the door, home break-ins and more.
As mentioned above, changes in their normal routine can trigger separation anxiety. This can be easily seen in dogs that were adopted during the covid pandemic. Pet parents spent almost their entire day with their dog and had limited interactions with other humans or dogs. After the covid restrictions were lifted, you now leave your pup alone more often. Your pup is now confused and may develop the anxious behaviors mentioned above. They see you as their pack leader and when you are gone, they do not know how to function on their own.
Since they have only experienced life with you, they have low social skills with other dogs. When you bring your pup out to meet other dogs, they are anxious and do not understand dog social cues. This creates a bad situation for you and the other dogs (aggression, fights, nervousness, over-protection, etc.). As you can see, separation anxiety can lead to many other behavior problems.
We will discuss the options to help your baby feel more confident and calm when alone below.
Use CBD to Calm Your Anxious Dog
If you are looking for a completely natural way of soothing anxiety in your dog, then CBD oil can immensely help. Although its exact mechanism is unknown, a few researches suggest that this oil interacts with the pet’s cannabinoid system to calm an anxious behavior.
However, our main concern is how to give this oil to dogs with separation anxiety for effective results. The best thing you can do is get the bottled oil with a dropper to ensure you administer it in the correct dose. Treats are not the best choice because they can be thrown up, rejected or half eaten.
Now there are two options for feeding, including directly in your dog’s mouth or by adding it to a food or treat. Again, the food/treat option is likely not going to guarantee being fully ingested.
Recommended CBD Dose: The ideal dose may vary according to your dog’s condition and breed. However, 1 to 5 milligrams per 10 pounds of your pet’s weight is recommended.
Also, one tip is to opt for full-spectrum CBD oil as it has a high amount of natural terpenes.
Calming Supplements for Anxiety
If you are unsure about CBD, you can always try calming supplements. The best supplements will contain ingredients like:
Each of these ingredients will help your pup in different ways, but most importantly, reducing anxiety. There are a couple different brands out there, so be sure to do your research. Your dog may also be more responsive to to certain supplements than others. So, you may need to do a trial run with different types until you find the best one for your pup.
Acupressure to Boost Confidence in Dogs with Separation Anxiety
Acupressure therapy ideally works as a preventative option for your dog. However, it can also be used with other methods as a complementary option. Acupressure can keep them calm, boost their confidence, and help clear their mind.
Acupressure point work uses light pressure to certain points on the body to activate these benefits. Holding acupressure points gently for 30-45 seconds or massaging the area every day will help balance the chi in their body. Here is a major point you can use at home:
Yin Tang Point: It is located directly between but slightly above your dog’s eyes. This point is also called the third eye. Massaging at the yin tang point can relax your pet in a few minutes.
If you are interested in learning more, sign up for one of our upcoming classes! We also offer one on one sessions for your pup. They will enjoy a relaxing session in their own home. No need to stress them by loading them up in the car!
Start Mild Separation Training
Once your dog is habitual of your constant presence, do not leave them alone for hours suddenly. Instead, you can start mild separation training by being absent for one to two minutes and then gradually increase the time over a long period of time.
Try this technique several times a day. However, be sure to give a break of a few minutes before disappearing again. Back-to-back arousals may decrease your pet’s tolerance, worsening its anxiety instead of relaxing it.
Moreover, your leaving schedule should be the same every day, at least in the beginning days of training. Unpredictable absence can also trigger bouts of severe anxiety in dogs. Dogs will do best with routines. It helps them understand what to expect next.
You can also enhance training by using acupressure points for mental clarity, boosting memory, and keeping them attentive.
Create a Safe Space with Crate Training
Many people opt for crate training their pup. This will allow you to leave the home knowing your pup cannot get into anything that would cause him harm. However, you cannot just put your pup in the crate and thats that. You need to train your pup to acknowledge that is his safe space.
Introduce your dog to the crate by leaving the door open. Feeding treats or meals inside while the door remains open.
After a few days, start giving the treats and meals with the door closed, with you nearby. Once they are done, let them out. This is creating a positive space for your dog.
After practicing door shutting for several more days, try to walk away while they enjoy their treats/meal/toys. When they are finished, come back to the room to let them out.
Continue to work up to longer times you are away from the crate.
Crate Training Tips
It may be a good idea to do these crate exercises after they have been playing and can rest.
Be sure they have went potty before they get in the crate.
NEVER use the crate for punishment.
Buy the correct size crate for your dog. Your dog should have enough room to stand and turn around.
Your dog will eventually associate the crate as a happy place and will go in it willingly. Crate training does take some time, but it is totally worth it!
Provide Physical Movement in Daily Life
Another technique that can help alleviate separation anxiety in dogs is including at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercises in their routine. For example, take them to run or swim daily.
When your pet is tired, it will have no more energy to expend when left alone. You can also play some interactive games like fetching and tug of war with your pet. Even regular walks and outings can help in this scenario.
Some other productive activities that will keep your dog busy and relaxed include:
Letting it play with other dogs in the park.
Providing food puzzle toys stuffed with their favorite treats like cheese, yogurt, etc.
Making your pet play food hunting by hiding its meal around the house before you leave it alone.
Be sure to still be present when they are playing or searching for their food or they will associate you leaving with the activity.
Use Toys for Emotional Support
Toys can be a great companion to your dog, especially when they struggle with separation anxiety. They help your pet fight boredom by being a source of entertainment and also provide comfort when they are nervous.
Some toys you can get include balls, frisbees, ropes, etc. But be careful they do not get overly attached because they may develop aggression when you remove the item.
Daycare and In-Home Care for Separation Anxiety
Another great option for your pup is to bring them to daycare. Dog daycare has many benefits:
Socialization with other dogs
Dogs who visit daycare at least a couple times a week will be happier. They can get out of the house and enjoy the day playing with other dogs. The main problem with separation anxiety is being alone. Bringing your pup to daycare will offer them time with other humans and dogs. By the end of the day, your pup will be happy to see you and tired from the long day.
On the other hand, you can also schedule your dog in-home visits from a pet sitter. They can take your pup on walks, play, give meals and more. However, this does run the risk of more anxiety due to the caretaker leaving after only a short period of time.
Give Rewards for Desired Behaviors
Reward-based training is one of the dogs' most effective ways of handling separation anxiety. It will not only enhance their mental activity, but you can also improve the bond with your pet. If you think the appreciation is just limited to food-based items like treats, then you are entirely wrong. Even patting your pet gives it a sense of accomplishment.
If you do offer treats as a reward, give them ones that are high value. This means the tasty treats that they don't normally get. Giving them high value treats when they do correct actions will encourage them to continue to please. This is called positive reinforcement training. Everyone likes to be praised for good work and so does your pup!
Medication for Separation Anxiety
We believe this would be a last resort. If your pup is still doing things that could risk his health and safety, you can get them anti-anxiety medication. Your vet will be the best person to go to when facing severe separation anxiety. They can choose the best medication that can help calm your pup. However, it shouldn't be a long term option. You will still need to work to reduce your pups separation anxiety through training or other methods.
We understand that tackling pets with separation anxiety can be overwhelming, especially when they start damaging your home and hurting themselves. However, if you use some of these techniques to calm your dog, it can soon recover from this disorder.
Ensure your pet feels safe in your house when you are away. You can build them a fort with blankets or allot a place in the closet's corner. This way, they will stay calm in their own space and play with their toys in your absence. Crate training will also be a great option to keep your pup safe and secure while you are out.
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