Dealing With Fido’s Separation Anxiety

You are all set to leave for work and see your dog almost having a nervous breakdown as you lock the door. When you’re back home, you slip the key into the lock and receive an overwhelming welcome from your dog and find the house in tatters. TV remote chewed up, stuffed toys with their insides pulled apart, plants dug up. The works.

If this is the routine your pooch follows every day, he may be suffering from a severe case of separation anxiety and isn’t able to deal with your being away from him for long. Separation anxiety in your pooch can be stressful for both you and him. But before you decide to throw in the towel, here’re a few tips that may help.

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What Exactly Is It?

Separation anxiety happens to be one of the major reasons why people give up their pets. It happens when your dog is extremely attached to you and is unable to cope with your absence and out of stress, destroys things (and can potentially hurt himself) in the house when left alone. It’s not a one-off tantrum that your pet throws as
you leave home, but occurs on a regular basis.

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Many scenarios can cause separation anxiety in a dog. It can happen when he’s used to being around people and suddenly finds himself alone at home. It can also happen if he has a new owner or when he’s just come to your house from the shelter. A change in his routine or a loss of a family member can also cause your dog to have separation anxiety.

The Tell-Tail Signs

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A dog showing signs of separation anxiety howls or barks incessantly when he’s home alone and shows visible signs of anxiety like panting or salivating excessively. He may start having accidents in the house despite being house-broken. He may chew up things, dig holes or scratch at doors and windows. Dogs may do some of these things occasionally but those with separation anxiety will do them almost all the time.

What Can Help

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The first thing you will need to do when you feel that your dog may be showing signs of separation anxiety, is to speak to your vet and rule out any medical condition that your dog may have which is causing him to have accidents in the house. Some medications can cause accidents too.

If your dog has a mild case of separation anxiety, you can give him a treat every time you leave home. The treat can be concealed in a treat-filled toy that will keep him occupied for a while. Offer him the treat when you leave and make sure you take it away the moment you’re back home.

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Keep your coming home and leaving fuss-free and ignore your dog for the first few minutes when you get home. You can leave some recently worn clothes out with your dog. Your scent will help him be calm. You can even try some over the counter dog calming remedies in consultation with your vet.

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If your dog has severe anxiety, these small measures may not work well and you will need to get him used to your absence gradually. The moment he sees you getting ready to leave, your pooch might start showing signs of anxiety. He might start whining or pacing as he sees you putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. What you will need to do then, is to not leave, but instead sit on the couch and start watching TV. You will need to do this several times in a day.

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When your pooch gets comfortable with that and starts to get less anxious about your putting your shoes on and picking up the keys, you can slowly start to disappear. Ask him to stay and close the door between you. Reappear after a few seconds and slowly increase the time you’re gone.

As he gets more and more comfortable with this ‘stay game’, increase the amount of time that you’re gone. Make sure your dog is relaxed before you leave. Give him a stuffed treat. It’s important not to rush things and to always act calm when you leave and come back. Gradually build up the time until you can leave the house for a few minutes. Then stay away for longer and longer periods.

A tired dog is a happy dog. And a tired-out dog will be less likely to feel stressed when you leave. And apart from the physical activity, your pet also needs to be mentally stimulated. Challenge his mind with games like treasure hunt or interactive puzzles. With the right mix of both, your dog will be too tired and happy to get anxious in your absence.