I know firsthand that separation anxiety in dogs exists. I deal with it daily and it can definitely prove itself to be a challenge. But what exactly does SA entail, and what can you do to help your dog? Keep reading to find out more.
Separation anxiety is one of the biggest complaints amongst pet owners and is most often taken as bad behavior rather than the deeper problem that it is. No, separation anxiety is not simply a pet whining and quivering in the corner. Other more severe characteristics include going to the bathroom in the house (even when they’re house trained), getting into the trash, barking/howling, chewing things other than their toys (goodbye, flip-flops), digging (just about anywhere), and trying to escape.
Realizing that your pup may have a case of SA when you’re away? Don’t worry. The first step is to do just that! Like I mentioned above, most pet parents just think their pet is acting out when really they’re trying to cope with feeling distressed. Think back to when you were 5 years old and you didn’t want your mom or dad to leave you with a babysitter for a few hours. Some of you may have thrown a tantrum, maybe “acted out”. Well, this is very similar to that, except your dog can’t talk, but he can sure make a mess and be loud enough to alert the neighbors.
There are several different cases when it comes to separation anxiety in dogs. Savannah, for instance, absolutely hates it when I go away. (Even if it’s just to walk to the mailbox out front). She whines, cries, and pants so much that it seems like she’s about to keel over from hyperventilation. To me, that would be considered more on the fair side. Now, the extreme side of this brings me to a story my parents told me of a dog they had when they first got married. Brandy, the Husky. I heard great things about her up until the moment I learned she chewed straight through a DOOR! (How is that even possible?).
Okay, story time is over. (I promise). Let’s get down to what you can do to help your pup conquer this fear. Although there is really no cure for it, there are plenty of things you can do to help them cope easier. (Heads up though, it’s not going to happen overnight…). According to ASPCA, there are a series of sessions you can do with your dog that gradually helps them get used to the idea of being away from you. You start out with short visits away from each other that don’t provoke an SA attack. As time goes on, you lengthen those visits away from each other until your pet no longer feels anxious. To learn more about this program, visit ASPCA’s Separation Anxiety article here.
I know this sounds easier said than done, but don’t give up yet. There are other steps you can take as well:
- Give your pet a “job”. No, not literally. But getting them out doing things they will enjoy will mentally stimulate them, possibly aiding in their anxiety problem.
- Take your dog to work with you. My. Dream.
- Hire a dog sitter or family member to stay with your pup during the day when you’re not able to. Doggie daycare works too!
- Test out crate training. Sometimes the feeling of having a safe place is helpful, but be sure to supervise the first few uses to make sure it’s not making matters worse.
- Medicate. This one is usually used in severe separation anxiety cases, so be sure to consult your pet’s vet before attempting anything.
With all of that said, (and I’m hoping it’s obvious) the worst thing you can do is scold your dog. They’re not acting out or showing you that they are all of a sudden not housetrained. As hard as it may be to understand, they just can’t help it! Get them the help they need.
Want to share about your dog’s separation anxiety and what you do to help them cope? Comment down below!