Separation Anxiety! How do I calm my dog?

Do you come home to a chewed mess? If so then your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. Seeing your dog in a state of anxiety can make you feel worried too, however you shouldn’t fret. There are ways of helping your dog over-come their anxiety. If you are a new dog owner this blog is also for you as I will be talking about how to avoid separation anxiety as well.

What is separation anxiety and why do dogs develop it?

Separation anxiety in a nutshell is when a dog becomes stressed just before or after the people they’re attached to leave. Dogs can develop separation anxiety if they are used to being around their owners most of the time but all of a sudden they are spending less time with them, this is because they don’t understand that being separate is a natural part of a humans life whereas for dogs their natural living consists of constantly being in a pack.

Signs your dog may have separation anxiety.

Although a lot of the signs that are consistent with separation anxiety may just be your dog misbehaving, especially if they are in their puppy stage. It is still a good idea to deal with them as if they are signs of anxiety.
Some of the signs are:
• Always following you around.
• Trying to leave the house with you.
• Barking, whimpering or whining.
• Sitting at the door as you prepare to leave.
• Pacing.
• Being destructive.
• Reacting negatively to noises.

There are some other things to look out for that you may not associate with separation anxiety, such as:
• A loss of appetite
• Doing normal things obsessively.
• Having a toilet accident in the house even though they are house trained.

How to deal with/avoid separation anxiety.

Firstly you should always consult your vet if you have any concerns as they could be symptoms of an underlying illness. When you go to see the vet make sure you take a list of your dog’s behaviours with you and if you can, get a video of your dog while they are exhibiting those behaviours.
There are ways you can train your dog so they don’t feel so anxious when they are left alone or so they don’t have to develop separation anxiety. Here is how to train your dog to deal with being separated from you.

The first method is point of reference.
Just note that before you start this method you should visualize what you’re going to do in your head so you can do the following steps in a calm and swift manner. This will show your dog that this unnatural activity is nothing to worry about and it will become natural.
1. While you’re moving about in your house count how many times your dog gets up and follows you.
2. Create a point of reference.
Find a spot in your house for your dog to go to when you’re not there, whether it be your sofa, the carpet or your dog’s bed.
3. Take your dog to your point of reference and tell them to stay while you take a few paces backwards.
4. If your dog stays then walk back to them and give them a treat and quietly say good girl/boy (make sure you speak calmly and quietly and always walk to them, don’t make them leave their point of reference as you would be rewarding them for following instead of staying)
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 but each time make the distance greater between the two of you.
This method shows your dog that you will be back so there is nothing to fear.

Check this video below to see it in action.

The next method is all about consistency.
Although you may always be with your dog now; there are many reason as to why, in the future, you can’t always be around so to avoid your dog developing separation anxiety here is a few tips.
1. Create a consistent, predictable routine.
You may want to spend as much time with your dog as you can before you start work. But creating a work life routine now will really benefit your dog in the long run.
2. Start spending time apart.
Your new routine should consist of you leaving your dog.
3. Try to leave and arrive quietly.
When you leave your dog try and do it quietly and don’t make a fuss over your dog. Try and do the same when you arrive, if your dog has behaved well while you were gone you can reward them with a treat in a calm manner.
4. Train your dog to go to a point of reference.
5. Keeping active.
Before your dog spends some time alone make sure they have had some exercise, if your dog is tired they may sleep while you’re gone.

Another method for dealing with separation anxiety is to simply leave the T.V. or radio on for background noise to soothe your dog. Kimi prefers Classical music!

Finally make sure your dog has something to distract and entertain them, this could be a KONG dog toy or a Lickimat. These can be frozen during summer to keep you dog cool. With these always use spreads instead of hard foods, as the golden rule is to not leave your dog unattended with hard foods or chews as they could be choking hazards      

There are many products out there that are specifically designed to calm and/or entertain dogs.
Click the link to find some calming and boredom busting products.

Separation anxiety in dogs