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If your dog gets anxious when you leave, there are ways to help.
If you spend a lot of time with your dog, they can become pretty attached to you. However, there are times when this can become a serious problem: they may become very upset when you leave, bark the whole time you're gone, and become physically stressed if they even suspect you might be heading out the door. Separation anxiety in dogs is a real thing, and it has noticeable signs. Here's how to know if your dog has separation anxiety, according to Sarah-Anne Reed, consulting holistic dog trainer for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance:
- Increased barking can be an obvious behavior change. When a dog's anxiety is triggered, they're more likely to be alert for other dangers. It's natural for them to bark more when their fear is elevated.
- Your dog may be hesitant to go outside to do their business, especially if you yourself seem stressed about the impending change. He'll need extra reassurance that whatever the 'danger' is that he's sensing isn't too close. You can comfort him by stepping outside first.
- Your dog may lunge or pull on the leash, leading you back home.
If you suspect your pet might be suffering from separation anxiety, your first move is to make a quick call to your vet. He'll be able to advise whether what you're seeing could be a sign of another condition, and offer suggestions either way. Of course, you play an important part too. Here's how to help your dog with separation anxiety, says Dr. Tammie Pearce, Director of Veterinary Science for AskVet:
1. Avoid Sudden Changes in Routine
If you suddenly have a new change in your life that brings you out of the house for longer periods of time — like having to go back into an office — you're not the only one who needs to adjust to the new normal. Instead, consider shorter trips away from home — maybe 10 minutes at first and working up to a few hours at a time. If your dog is really nervous, you might try leaving him with a Calmeroos. Ideal for puppies, the heartbeat sound and warming pad soothes skittish older dogs too.
2. If You Use A Kennel, Have Them Spend Time There When You're Home
If your kennel is only associated with you leaving, chances are, your dog will resist entering it — no matter how much they like it or how cozy you make it for them. If you place them in their kennel while you're still in the house, they will stop looking it as a place they go only when you're about to leave. This Kindtail Pawd Collapsible Dog Crate is airy and modern-looking. It'll be extra comfy when you add a cushy pad, like Frisco's Mocha Swirl Dog Crate Mat. Large breed dogs will have room to relax comfortably in this extra-large crate from Lucky Dog.
3. Play It Cool
It may feel counterintuitive, but don't give your pet long, affectionate goodbyes before you leave. Don't make it a big production — just take your keys and go.
4. Leave Familiar Music Playing When You're Gone
Soothing sounds can go a long way when you're not around. Any genre that you normally listen to at home on low volume, is fine, but we recommend you check out iCalmPet's 16 hours worth of clinically-tested music to ease dog separation anxiety. It's recommended by veterinarians and dog trainers, and consists of soothing piano music that has been proven to calm down panicked dogs. It comes loaded on a Micro SD card, which is compatible with lots of Bluetooth Speakers, like this affordable option by Anker.
5. Leave Them Occupied With Some Fun Distractions
A Kong Classic is pretty much the gold standard to keep a dog happy and occupied. This incredibly durable rubber toy comes in a number of sizes for dogs of all kinds, and they'll be so busy enjoying it, they might not even notice you've left. Make it extra interesting to your pet by stuffing it with Kong Easy Treat and freezing it overnight.
6. Give Your Pet Treats Before You Go & When You're Staying In
You don't want your dog to associate treats with Try Full Moon Organic Dog Treats for human quality treats in a dog approved package.
7. Vary Up Your Exit Routine
Vary your exit routine so your dog is not always looking for cues that you're going to head out the door. For example, don't always pick up your keys as you walk out the door. Instead, pick up the keys and carry them around for a while, then put them back without leaving. Pets can pick up on these little cues quickly, so being a bit unpredictable helps manage anxiety.
8. Try Out Some Calming Dog Chews
You might also try a supplement specifically made for anxious dogs. We love Petlab Co.'s Total Calm Chicken Flavor Chews is one highly-reviewed option suitable for all ages of dogs. This chew is manufactured in the USA and uses herbal ingredients like Passion Flower to calm your dog down without making them lethargic. It's also useful to have around for stressful situations like thunderstorms or fireworks. One reviewer wrote: "My 8 yr Aussie mix has extreme separation anxiety and loud noise anxiety. After starting the chews she has shown tremendous relief."
9. Consider A Video Camera Like The Furbo
The Furbo Dog Camera is a great option that offers a real-time 1080p full HD live stream right from your mobile device. It has over 23,000 five-star reviews on Amazon for a reason: the two-way audio allows you to hear your dog when they're barking, and you can talk back to them to calm them down. You'll also get push notifications on your phone when your dog is barking, and it even tosses treats to your dog. Yes — actual treats. You'll also be able to keep your vet informed of any worrisome changes in behavior if you're tracking how your fur baby is handling the time without you — so this is a camera that will give you peace of mind if your dog has especially extreme separation anxiety.
10. Delay Greeting Your Pet When You Return
When you get home, don't immediately let your pet out of his kennel or whatever area he is in. Instead, calmly put your things away, waiting for your pup to settle down before the hugs and slobbery kisses start.
This piece was originally published on August 31, 2021.
What's your favorite way to curb your dog's anxiety? Share with us on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!
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