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Separation Anxiety: 10 Tips to Help Your Dog

Separation anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, fear, or panic that develops when a dog is unable to be in contact with his or her caregivers.

Symptoms of established separation anxiety include:

  • Barking, whining, or howling when left alone
  • Destructive behaviors (e.g., chewing and clawing at objects in the home)
  • Escape attempts through or around doors and windows, crates, or fences

Tip #1: Give your dog at least 30 minutes of activity every day. Exercising your dog regularly encourages him/her to relax and rest while you are away

Tip #2: Provide food puzzle toys that are only given to your dog when he/she will be alone. You can use a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese, or yogurt to keep your pet mentally busy which will help them to remain calm.

Tip #3: Enroll in a reward-based training class to increase your dog’s mental activity and provide a “job” for your pet, which will help them feel more confident.

Tip #4: If your dog barks when you leave, you can leave a radio or television on for background noise so that your dog will not feel alone.

Tip #5: Don’t get emotional when leaving your dog and overexcited when you come back. By paying too much attention to your departure and return, you risk reinforcing the dog’s fear of your absence. Calmly say goodbye and leave. When you come back, quietly say hello and don’t get too affectionate until your dog has calmed down.

Tip #6: Keep greetings and departures calm. Separation anxiety in dogs increases when they sense that you’re nervous about leaving, too. If your dog is hysterical when you come home, ensure that you don’t give attention until your dog is calm and able to sit quietly. Similarly, if your dog knows your “leaving the house ritual” too well, desensitize the dog to the various steps. For example, try putting on your coat and grabbing your car keys—and then watch TV for 20 minutes.

Tip #7: Gradually lengthen periods of your absence – Stage several short departures/arrivals throughout the day, gradually lengthening each absence as your dog adjusts.

Tip #8: Take your dog to doggy daycare for socialization with other dogs, which will also physically and mentally exercise your dog for encouraged relaxation at home.

Tip #9: Create your dog a safe space in their crate. This should include giving them a Kong or puzzle toy in the crate with the door open while you are home. By establishing the crate as a haven, your dog will feel more comfortable spending time in the crate.

Tip #10: For more severe cases of separation anxiety, you should consult your veterinarian for information regarding medications or supplements to help calm your dog.

*You should NEVER punish your dog for behaviors related to separation anxiety as you will only further his/her anxiety of you leaving.

For more information on medications or supplements, please contact our Wellness clinic at (803) 465-9196 or www.pawmettowellness.org. For more information to enroll your dog in our Doggy Daycare program, please contact Alexa Sparkman at (803) 465-9178 or asparkman@pawmettolifeline.org

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