If you have a dog who has bad separation anxiety, you probably already know just how hard this can be to deal with. Some dogs have anxiety so bad that they can’t be left alone at all without destroying something or making noise the whole time, which can be very difficult for their families.
In this article, we’ll talk you through some of the best tips you can try when managing separation anxiety in your dog. Use this information to help you choose the right course of action and help you and your dog get through this stressful time. If you have any questions, call Carey Animal Hospital in Cincinnati at (513) 531-7117.
Mild Separation Anxiety
If your dog’s separation anxiety is mild, you may be able to simply let them “cry it out.” To do this, you will need to step out of the room so they can’t see you, then let them finish crying and whining. When they are quiet, you can come back into the room and reward them with a treat for being quiet. Over time, they will start associating being quiet with getting a treat, and this will help them stay calm when left alone.
You may also be able to help a dog with mild separation anxiety by giving them a shirt or another piece of clothing that smells like you or another family member. This way, they can always feel close to the scent of their family, even when no one is at home. This will be comforting to them.
Moderate Separation Anxiety
Some dogs with moderate separation anxiety do well if a TV or radio is left on while no one is at home. The sound of someone talking “nearby” can make a big difference and can help your dog settle down more easily. A white noise machine or even a sound machine app might also do the same, providing your dog with a soothing sound to listen to. You can even find white noise sounds online that play a dog’s heartbeat, allowing dogs to feel like they aren’t alone and are near a fellow dog.
If your dog’s separation anxiety is moderate, you might also be able to help by simply tiring them out throughout the day. If you know you need to leave home in the evening, for example, be sure to play with your dog, take them on a long walk, or provide them with some puzzle toys for mental stimulation. This will help them feel more tired by the time they will be left alone, which can encourage them to just go to sleep until the family returns instead of becoming anxious.
Severe Separation Anxiety
Dogs with severe separation anxiety may need more involved assistance to get through this issue. You may need to train your dog to stop associating certain cues with you leaving. For example, if you always grab your keys from a key rack right before you leave, your dog may start to panic when they see you do this. Slowly, over time, start grabbing your keys and then sitting back down for a while. This will show them that there’s nothing to worry about and that they aren’t always going to be left alone in this situation. The anxiety should start to ease up with enough patience and effort.
You might also need to work with a professional trainer to help your dog through their separation anxiety. Training can give you some good ways to teach your dog better coping skills. It can also give you something to work on with your pet, so that their mind will be more occupied and they will be more likely to lay down and go to sleep when they’re home alone instead of panicking. There are many methods trainers might use to help dogs with separation anxiety, so don’t be afraid to ask around and get more information before committing to one trainer.
Finally, in very severe cases, dogs may require medication if they have bad separation anxiety. Most veterinarians will encourage you to try other methods listed here before committing to giving your dog medicine for anxiety. However, if nothing else has worked, your dog may need to be put on an anxiety medication intended for canine use. Never give your dog medication meant for humans, and be sure to follow your vet’s recommendations about dosage amounts and frequencies very carefully. Remember that it will take a couple of weeks before the medication will start working fully for your dog, too. There are several strategies you can try when dealing with a dog who has separation anxiety. Some of these may work for you, and others might not, but it’s important to give them a try. Make sure you stay patient with your dog throughout the process, as it’s going to take some time for them to unlearn their anxiety. Feel free to call us at (513) 531-7117.