Help With Anxiety In Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs can be stressful for everyone, and it is actually one of the most common reasons people give up their dogs.  You can take steps to relieve your dog’s anxiety and end their destructive behavior, it takes consistency and patience.

 

 

You need to understand what causes anxiety in dogs:

 

  • Being left alone for the first time or when he’s used to being with people

  • Change of ownership

  • Moving from a shelter to a home

  • Change in family routine or schedule

  • Loss of a family (pet or person) member

A few symptoms of a dog who has anxiety:

  • Howl, bark, or whine to excess

  • Have indoor "accidents" even though he’s housebroken, make sure that this isn't caused by a medical problem

  • Chew things up, dig holes, scratch at windows and doors

  • Drool, pant, or salivate way more than usual

  • Pace, often in an obsessive pattern

  • Try to escape

To Start Try …

  • Give your dog a special treat each time you leave (like a puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter). Only give him this treat when you're gone, and take it away when you get home.

  • Make your comings and goings low-key without a lot of greeting. Ignore your pup for the first few minutes after you get home.

  • Leave some recently worn clothes out that smell like you.

  • Consider giving your pet over-the-counter natural calming supplements.

 

What NOT to do ...

By following the steps above, you will help your dog ease their separation anxiety and learn to relax when you leave them at home.

Here are a few reminders of what NOT to do if your dog has separation anxiety:

  • Do not punish your dog – Your dog is acting out because of severe stress. By punishing your anxious dog when they destroy things or have accidents, you are actually creating more stress and making the problem worse.

  • Don’t manage the problem with treating the underlying cause – There will be times that you will not have the time or patience to deal with your dog’s behavior resulting from separation anxiety. You may be tempted to bring him to daycare, quit your job, or take him with you everywhere. These are management techniques that will help you in the short term. They will not make the separation anxiety go away, but they will make it easier to deal with. Use these methods if you have to, but be sure to use behavior modification techniques as well.

  • Don’t get another dog – Again, this may ease your dog’s symptoms for a time, but in the long run it won’t help your dog’s issues with being alone.

If the Problem Is More Serious …

A dog with severe anxiety won't be distracted by even the tastiest treats. You'll need to slowly get him used to your absence.

He may start to get nervous when he sees signs you're about to leave, like putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. So do those things, but then don't leave.

  • Put on your shoes and then sit down at the table. Pick up your keys, purse or whatever you usually go out with and watch TV. Do this over and over through out the day until your dog starts to feel less anxious thinking you are leaving.

  • Now that your dog is starting to feel less anxious, you can slowly start to disappear. Without making a big deal of it, that means no baby talk, or over excitement and attention from YOU, quietly go on the other side of the door. Reappear after a few seconds. Slowly increase the amount of time you're gone.

  • In order to make the experience positive, you need to come back to your dog before they show signs of distress.At first this could be every 20 seconds, but eventually your dog will understand that your absence doesn’t equal disaster

  • Put on your shoes and pick up your keys. Have your dog in the crate or just gate off one room while you go into another room. As he gets more used to the "Leaving," increase the amount of time you're gone. If your dog doesn’t feel comfortable in the crate, leaving them in it when you leave will only make matters worse.

  • Only you can tell if your dog is ready to be left alone for longer periods. Use an outside door (if you can), but not the same one you go out every day. Make sure your dog is relaxed before you leave. Don't rush things. Give him a stuffed treat when you've built up to 10 seconds or so apart. Always act calm when you leave and when you return.

  • Gradually build up the time until you can leave the house for a few minutes. Then stay away for longer and longer periods.

  • If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, medications can help ease their anxiety as you work through the training methods above.

  • There are medications that have proven to be effective at treating separation anxiety, but they should always be used under direct supervision of a veterinarian.

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