Does your dog panic and get anxious whenever you leave home? Does he howl, bark, whine or follow you outside anytime you leave? If you answered yes, then he could be suffering from separation anxiety. Usually, separation anxiety is progressive in most dogs. That means that it gets worse with time, therefore you need to intervene early enough before the behavior gets more serious.
Note that most dogs exhibit this behavior when you’re leaving and then calms down afterwards. However, those with severe forms of separation anxiety will continue howling or trying to escape for hours after you’re gone. Managing this condition is possible though it takes lots of time, patience, understanding and commitment. In severe cases, you’re likely to need professional help to assist you in managing your dog’s behavior better.
Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety
Most dogs with separation anxiety exhibit these common symptoms:
Excessive panting and drooling
Howling, barking and whining
Urinating or defecating inside the house
Aggression, hyperactivity and hiding whenever you try to leave
Trying to sneak through the window/door, or following you outside when you leave
Digging, chewing and other destructive behaviors
Refusing to eat
If you’ve noticed any of these signs in your dog, try managing the behavior step by step with these tips:
Keep Your Dog Calm When Getting Ready To Leave
Our dogs are very smart. They know our routines very well. When they see you showering, getting dressed, wearing your shoes, wearing makeup, doing your hair, brushing your teeth and grabbing your purse or car keys, they already know you’re about to leave the house. If yours has separation anxiety, any of these actions will trigger him to start getting anxious
When this happens, try to calm your dog down. Turn that act that is making him panic into a positive experience for him. For instance, if he starts becoming nervous whenever you brush your teeth in the morning, shift his focus from the brushing by giving him a yummy treat or his favorite toy to play with. This way, he’ll gradually start associating brushing with something positive (a reward) than negative (you leaving him alone).
Leave Him For Shorter Periods
Another way to manage your dog’s anxiety is by leaving for a shorter period of time. If you usually leave at 5 am until 7pm in the evening, try making short trips back to the house during the day. This may not be possible for everyone, but if you can, try coming back earlier than usual, or paying him a visit during lunch hour. When he sees you coming back to him often, he won’t see your leaving as a big deal.
Give Your Dog Enough Physical and Mental Stimulation
Giving your pet enough physical and mental exercise will not cure separation anxiety, but it will certainly help to manage the behavior. We all know it’s not easy to find enough time to play with our dogs in the morning before going to work. However, you don’t have to go for an hour’s walk to make a difference. Even 10 minutes of jogging/walking or the game of fetch/tug of war is enough to exercise your pet mentally and physically. Be sure to also leave him with a few indestructible toys to play with as you leave to keep him busy.
Overall, separation anxiety in dogs is manageable with a lot of commitment, time, patience and understanding on your part. Hopefully, with the above tips, you’ll be able to keep your dog’s anxiety under control. If you notice lack of improvement, consult a professional behaviorist or trainer to help you come up a better management plan for him.