Got a nervous pup? Do they struggle to cope when you leave home, even for just a short while? Read on to discover how to help them with their separation anxiety!
Dogs are naturally pack animals. They feel at home with the leader of the pack - you. So, when you suddenly pack up and leave your home to go to the supermarket or to work, they can feel a sense of panic and abandonment.
Does my dog have separation anxiety?
Here are some surefire signs that your dog is suffering from a case of separation anxiety:
They destroy furniture or other parts of your home when they are left alone.
You can hear them barking, howling, whining or scratching at the door soon after you leave them alone.
They urinate or defecate inside the house, when this behavior would not usually happen.
What could trigger separation anxiety?
Do not take your dog’s anxiety to mean that you have necessarily done something wrong during their training. You may simply be a very loving owner that they struggle to be without! Also, if you are returning to work after being at home for months during the pandemic, this can also cause anxiety in your dog.
Previous experience with poor treatment or time spent in a dog kennel could also contribute towards feelings of anxiety upon your departure.
Also, if your dog has never shown symptoms of separation anxiety in the past, question whether your family dynamic has changed recently. Did someone leave home permanently? Did a different pet pass away?
Helping your dog with separation anxiety
Looking to help your dog get over the anxiety they experience when you leave home? Try some of the following tips:
Start by leaving the home briefly, and without making a fuss. You stand a better chance of getting your dog accustomed to you leaving the home if you do it quickly and quietly. Do not make a big fuss of your dog before you leave, or speak in loud or upset tones. The goal is to make your departure a normal occurrence for your dog, without any negative emotion attached to it.
Give your dog a cue that means you will be back. When you start by leaving the house for a few minutes at a time, give them something that will help them associate your departure with the fact that you always return. This could mean turning on the radio or leaving them a specific chew toy.
Walk your dog before you leave. Wear your pup out with a vigorous walk before you are going to leave. This way, they will be too tired to put much energy into missing you! Also, they could learn to associate the positive experience of going for a walk with your departure.
Be a role model of a pack leader. As mentioned, you are your dog’s pack leader. If you project confidence and show your dog there is nothing to be afraid of, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps and remain calm. Avoid emotional goodbyes and nervously closing the door behind you!
Never resort to punishment or shouting at your dog. At best, this behavior will confuse your dog and make them think something is wrong. At worst, it will ingrain their separation anxiety even further, because they will associate your departure with this negative consequence.
Leave your dog a piece of clothing you have recently worn. Your dog has a powerful sense of smell, and it can help them overcome separation anxiety. Leaving your scent on a piece of clothing or fabric will help your dog feel your presence and believe that you are nearby, therefore lowering their anxiety levels.