Separation anxiety is common among canines who are attached to their owners and get stressed when left alone -- and this could be any dog at all. These pets whine, howl and bark when their pet parents are away. Some dogs may even exhibit destructive behaviors when their pet parents are out. For example, they might chew on items like shoes or furniture, or scratch windows and doors when left alone.
Dogs develop separation anxiety for many reasons. They may be adjusting to being in a new environment, such as when transferring from the animal shelter into their new home or changing pet owners. Another reason could be a change in household routine or the loss of a family member. But the most common cause for exhibiting separation anxiety is that the dog is being left alone for the first time.
If your dog has separation anxiety, it can be heartbreaking to see your furry friend struggling with being left home alone. Fortunately, there are different ways to handle the situation and reduce your dog’s stress. From giving your pup a cuddly toy to help soothe them to training them to be accustomed to your absence.
Here are steps to help your pup cope with separation anxiety.
Soothe Your Pup With a Toy
Some dogs calm down when they have something soft and cozy to snuggle with. If your pup enjoys this kind of toy, consider giving them a customizable beer can dog toy. Soft dog toys help pets feel more at ease, especially pups who are acclimating to a new home. Some stuffed toys even come with a heat pack to keep your fur baby warm and a device that imitates the pulsing sound and vibration of a heartbeat. These toys mimic the feeling of being cuddled, so your pup feels less lonely.
Give Your Dog a Treat
Another way to handle dogs with separation anxiety is to turn the experience of being left alone into a positive one. By giving them tasty treats before you go, they will learn to associate being alone with something they enjoy -- treats!
But don’t just randomly leave the treats in your dog’s bowl. Instead, stuff the treats into an interactive toy or a puzzle toy for dogs. These toys have the treats hidden in different compartments, and your dog has to figure out how to access them. Apart from giving your dog something to look forward to, the toy will keep them busy and distracted, so they’re less likely to engage in destructive behaviors.
In addition, you can make this strategy more effective by giving the toy filled with treats when you’re about to leave and taking it away once you’re home. This limits your dog’s access to the toy, and they may even learn to look forward to being left at home so they can play with their fun toy and get yummy treats.
Leave Clothing You're Worn With Your Dog
Many dogs with separation anxiety derive comfort from being around their pet parentsa and become upset and misbehave in their absence. As such, ease your pup’s feelings of abandonment by giving them a shirt you’ve already worn. The used clothing has your scent on the fabric, which can be comforting to your dog.
Give your pup an old shirt or something you’re willing to part with in case they decide to play roughly with the item and tear it apart. Another option is to purchase a soft yet durable dog blanket that you can use a couple of times before giving to your pet. This way, your pet can lie down on the blanket and be comforted by your scent without ruining one of your clothes.
Train Your Dog to Get Used to Being Left Alone
Commonly, dogs with separation anxiety start to get nervous as soon as they notice signs their parents are about to leave, like putting on their shoes or getting their keys. If this happens with your dog, it’s a good idea to train your dog to become less reactive to these actions. Proceed with your routine like you’re about to head out, but instead of going out the door, stay in one area of your home and just relax there. Doing this will let your pup get used to seeing you with your shoes on and ready to go.
Repeat the actions multiple times a day, and when you notice that your pup is looking less anxious about you leaving, you can start going out the door. Ask your pup to “stay” and close the door between you and your pet. Instead of leaving home, however, just stay on the other side of the door. Then, come back after a few seconds. Gradually, increase the time you’re outside. Make sure your dog is at ease and doesn’t exhibit anxious behavior before increasing your time apart. Soon, your pup will get used to you putting your shoes on and picking up your keys without making a fuss.
Dogs who have separation anxiety are common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. After all, it can be stressful for both the dog and their owners if these issues remain unresolved. Thankfully, you can use the suggestions mentioned here to train your pup to be comfortable being left alone. They’ll also help you feel at ease knowing your pet is calm and safe at home.