There is no fun in separation anxiety!
That is all!
At it’s worst anxiety can cause a dog to harm itself, licking and chewing its paws until they bleed, destroying property or even escaping and running away. Milder cases result in minor destruction and irritating noise. Whining, howling and incessant barking can make for angry neighbors. Destruction and damage to furnishings and household soiling or damage, and a frantic pup is not what anyone wants to come home to at the end of the day. However, with patience and consistency most dog owners can resolve the situation and have a happier, well adjusted dog!
(It Ain't No Big Deal!)
When your pooch sees you following a set pattern before you leave each day , they learn that these are the things you do right before you leave; picking up your keys, purse or laptop bag, giving them a treat, telling them goodbye. They see you do these things on a regular basis and start to anticipate your leaving!When your dog doesn’t get these cues from you they are more likely to be a zen doggy!
Be sneaky. Go outside for a bit without obviously carrying any of these items. Don’t give your dog treats right before you leave. Give them treats randomly, make them earn the treat and don’t overdo it. Don’t crate or feed your dog immediately before leaving.
When it’s really time to leave, just leave.
If your dog is new to a crate, you want to go slow. Leave the crate door open. Fill the crate with comfy bedding and some of their favorite toys and snuggly things. Hide favorite treats. Put an unwashed item of clothing that smells like you inside. Let your dog slowly get used to to their crate. At first, only close the door for a few minutes. Don’t lock them in right away.
There are lots of good resources on the web about crate training. HERE is an excellent one from PawRescue!
There are “puzzle” toys you can put treats or some kibble into. Some dogs will spend hours trying to get the food out. This satisfies the need to work to get their food (hunting) and once they have conquered the toy and had their fill, they will be more relaxed and likely to nap.
My favorite recipe is to make a “Kongcicle.” I fill a kong with a mixture of good quality wet food, cap it with peanut butter or something else that the dog really loves and then I stick a treat in it so that it looks like a popsicle stick. I freeze it overnight. The dog gets a smaller breakfast or the Kongcicle in lieu of breakfast. It takes the dog longer to get the reward from a frozen Kong and they can stay busy, working at it for hours!
- Leaving familiar house noises like a TV or radio at low volume or a CD designed for calming dogs like “Through a Dog’s Ear," IN ADDITION to the above techniques can add to calmness.
- There are also some nifty synthetic pheromones that mimic the scent of a lactating mama dog that can be helpful when spritzed about or diffused. Here's One. Here's another.
- Several of my more desperate clients who had dogs with severe anxiety highly praise the Thundershirt which is akin to swaddling a baby.
- Severe cases may also be helped with prescription medication like Clomicalm IN ADDITION to behavioral modification training.
Doggy Day Care can be a good option but if you don’t deal with the core issue, the minute you can’t take your dog to day care and have to leave them at home your neighbors will be hating you again!
Nuisance barking often has nothing to do with separation anxiety but the plan above will certainly result in a calmer dog which will probably reduce nuisance barking.
6AM wake up! If you have a back yard, let the dog out, if not take them out for a quick potty break.
6:15-8:30AM Go about your normal routine of getting ready for work, feed yourself, shower,get ready etc.
At some point during this window of time, take your dog for a minimum 15-20 minute walk. Bring them in. Continue your business. Then, before you leave but not right before, feed the dog in or near their confined space. If they have a Kong put that in with them. Continue your business and when you need to leave, just leave!
12-230PM At some point during this window you, your dog walker or friend arrives, exercises and spends quality time with your unconfined dog. 30 minutes minimum. If they have time. 45-1 hour is ideal. Your dog walker should follow the same plan of confining your dog again, but not leaving immediately. And just like you, when they go they should just leave with no fuss or acknowledgement of the dog.
6:00PM Arrive home. Do not greet your dog right away or make a big fuss. Do not let them out the minute you walk in the door unless it's obvious they have an urgent need. Spend at least 5-10 minutes doing other things, then casually let your dog out and give them a potty break.
6:15/6:30PM When you have been home for a bit, take your dog out for at least 20-30 minutes of exercise. (This is good for both of you by the way) Then feed your dog dinner and go about your normal evening routine.
If you work at home some days, you can still follow the routine. This also helps the dog not to associate being confined with you being away.
If you have a friend or dog walker coming in, make sure to let them know if you have a camera running so you don’t violate their privacy.
Request that they not bang on walls or yell at your dog, but to please let you know how it’s going. If you have helpful neighbors who are home during the day they may be able to help you pinpoint if their are problem hours and you might adjust your dog walker’s window or visit length to accommodate this. If you make your neighbors part of the solution they will be able to feel helpful instead of crabby!
On separation anxiety and how to deal with it!
- Naturvet Quiet Moments
Kong stuffing recipes:
Always feel free to contact More Than Pets: Pet-sitting & More if you have questions, would like an in-home consultation or need services!