Though nothing beats staying at home with your dog, you’ll need to leave them home alone at some point.
Your normally well-behaved dog may act much differently when you’re not around. But it’s not as though your dog waits for you to leave to indulge in making messes.
We’re all our dogs know. We’re their family, their entire social life, and their sole source of entertainment. We’re their whole world. Of course they get upset when we leave.
Separation anxiety is incredibly common, but it’s also one of the most manageable behavioural issues. Take away the anxiety of being left alone, and your dog can actually enjoy quiet time when you leave.
1. Your Dog Might Be Showing Separation Anxiety In Different Ways
Do you ever dread coming home to your dog?
Maybe you’re hoping you won’t get another note from your neighbour, whose baby couldn’t nap because your dog barked all day. Or maybe another set of throw pillows will have “exploded” all over the house.
Or your house-trained dog may be having messy accidents again. Maybe your dog typically takes out their anxiety on herself, chewing raw spots on her paws or tail.
These are all signs that your dog is feeling stressed when you’re away.
However, they’re also common signs of medical issues, or other behavioural problems. For example, if your house-trained dog is having potty accidents, they may be suffering from a urinary tract infection. A dog who is chewing at their skin may actually have allergies.
Before moving forward, discuss your dog’s symptoms with your veterinarian. You will need to rule out any medical issues before proceeding with training.
Once you rule out any underlying medical issues, you can start working with a professional trainer who specializes in anxiety-related behavioural issues. Healthy Houndz is a professional dog training company serving Toronto and North York. Get in touch to get started on finding the root cause of your dog’s symptoms.
2. Some Dogs Are More Likely To Experience Separation Anxiety Than Others
Your dog did not only inherit floppy ears or spots from their parents. They also inherited a predisposition to certain behavioural issues. Your dog’s personality is determined by their past experiences, family history, diet and environment.
Highly social dogs, like the Labrador Retriever, Bichon Frise, Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Yorkie are all bred for companionship, which means they do not always adapt easily to being left alone.
Working breeds like the Border Collie and German Shepherd are highly intelligent and high-energy, but that also means they can easily become bored or understimulated if left alone.
Even so, no dog breed is immune to separation anxiety. Rescue dogs, especially those with an abusive or unknown past, can also be prone to anxiety issues.
Separation anxiety is not a sign that you’ve loved your dog too much. It’s not a sign that your dog is spoiled. It’s usually not anyone’s fault, though it can be prevented and treated.
3. Your Home Environment May Make Separation Anxiety Worse
When your home is empty, it’s a different place for your dog. In a quiet home, your dog can become more alert to outdoor noises. They may feel especially stressed when a perceived threat passes by, especially when you’re not around to tell them how to react appropriately.
Certain genres of music have been shown to help relieve anxiety in dogs. Playing music while you’re away can also overpower outside noises that can put your dog on alert.
You can also get window cling film to blur out the sight of people and other animals who pass by. While you may wonder if window-watching could be a way for your dog to pass time, it’s actually a huge source of stress. Every time someone passes, your dog’s heart rate accelerates. If many people pass your home throughout the day, your dog can never truly relax.
When your dog no longer spends time by the window, they’ll break the habit of watching and waiting for you to come back. Just as a watched pot does not boil, time will go by faster when your dog is distracted or napping when you’re gone, rather than staring and looking out for your car.
4. Crating Can Help Reduce Separation Anxiety
If your dog is destructive while you are away, crating is critical for their own safety. It could be very dangerous if your dog ingests pieces of furniture, shoes, children’s toys, or anything that is not designed to be chewed. That said, most chew toys, like antlers and Nylabones, can crack teeth or cause choking, so they are best used with supervision.
If your dog has potty accidents, crating will likely reduce their occurrence. Dogs typically do not like to mess where they sleep, though some anxious dogs do have accidents in their crates.
Your dog’s crate should be their happy place. If your dog is not crate trained, you’ll want to work on that before leaving your dog crated while you’re away.
When combined with a regular routine, crating can actually eliminate separation anxiety. In a crate, your dog has few choices: they can play with any toys or food puzzles you leave inside, or they can sleep. They can’t pace, make messes or otherwise practice bad habits. Over time, your dog will actually relax the moment they go into their crate.
5. Boredom Can Lead To Separation Anxiety
Dogs sleep about 12-18 hours per day. So, if they get all of their naptime in while you are home, they will not be able to sleep when you go away. Going for longer, more vigorous walks right before you leave can help your dog nap instead of waiting up for you.
If you don’t have enough time to get your dog tired before you leave, you can provide activities to occupy them instead. Food toys like the Kong can be filled with moist food like peanut butter, yogurt, pureed fruits and veggies, scrambled eggs or ground beef. You can freeze a filled Kong so it lasts longer.
When Your Dog Has Severe Separation Anxiety
The steps above will work for mild cases, but for dogs with severe separation anxiety, or for those who have been struggling for a long time, professional help might be necessary.
A positive reinforcement trainer can show you how to break patterns and create new, healthy habits to make separation anxiety easier for you and your dog.
Contact Healthy Houndz today to start making meaningful progress by working on your dog’s emotional health and sense of well-being.