How to deal with separation anxiety in dogs
Humans see a lot of themselves in dogs—that’s why these pets always fascinate us. One trait that we seemingly share in common with them is anxiety. When we see our dogs distracted and fidgety, or when we hear them whining and whimpering, we know that something is bothering them.
One situation where anxiety crops up in dogs is when they are separated from us. A lot of dogs display this through barking, howling, clawing at the door, or being unruly. Just as in humans, separation anxiety is something that is not beneficial and should be addressed.
There are a number of techniques that you can use to help ease the situation and hopefully instill the right behavior in your pet dog:
Train your dog while he is still young. As much as possible, while your pet is still a puppy, wean him slowly from you so that he does not experience separation anxiety. A good way to start is by putting him in a collar and making him familiar with limited movement. Choose a comfortable dog collar and start leashing him inside the house. Walk away for certain periods and observe his reaction. Increase the distance and time of your absence periodically so that he slowly gets accustomed to the feeling of not having you around.
Distract or preoccupy your dog. A good way to alleviate separation anxiety is to keep your dog busy in your absence. While starting to wean him away from yourself, give him his favorite toy, a chew bone, or a treat to keep him preoccupied. Just as a human’s mind would be kept away from worrisome thoughts while busy, your dog will hopefully be distracted enough not to notice that you are away. You can also have him play around with other dogs or humans so that he starts enjoying the company of others aside from you.
Keep him active. A long-term solution in keeping your dog distracted is making sure he is active and well-exercised. Sometimes, the root cause of anxiety in dogs is simply pent-up energy. This is especially true for dogs that live in limited spaces such as apartments or condominium units. It is important for dogs to run around and expend their energy, so that they are tired when they get home and they go straight to resting.
Assure your dog. Here is another trick that might help comfort your dog if he is experiencing anxiety from being separated from you: leave an object with your scent on it, such as your used shirt or an old pillow. This can create the illusion in his mind that you are around even if you are not physically or visibly present. You can also talk to your dog and assure him in a comforting tone before you leave the room or house.
Seek professional help. If your dog is still a puppy, you can expect some level of separation anxiety that he should be able to naturally outgrow. However, after some time and despite common remedies, if your dog still continues to exhibit signs of separation anxiety, you may want to seek the help of an animal expert. If the anxiety persists or escalates to more destructive behavior such as harming others, it would be best to consult a trained professional.
Anxiety and Your Dog
Anxiety is a tough emotion to deal with for humans, much more for animals such as dogs. If you observe your pet to be suffering from separation anxiety, always remember to treat him with extra patience, loving care, and constant attention — sometimes, you only need those in order to transform him into a well-behaved and well-adjusted companion.