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DOG SEPARATION ANXIETY: SIGNS, SYMPTOMS & TREATMENTS
While all dogs adore their humans and love spending time with them, some dogs develop an unhealthy attachment, which can result in separation anxiety. All pet parents know there are few things more heartbreaking than a dog with separation anxiety; the howling, barking, and destructive behavior is devastating!
Shelter dogs experience separation anxiety more than dogs raised with a single-family from birth. Experts believe this is brought on by loss, causing fear of abandonment. This type of feeling can be triggered by changes in guardianship, schedule, residence, or family membership (new baby or partner moving in).
With many pawrents working from home these days, their fur babies are bound to be upset when everyone eventually returns to the office. Even if your pup never had issues with being left before, they may begin to exhibit signs of separation anxiety in the future.
SIGNS OF DOG SEPARATION ANXIETY
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety may appear “normal” when you’re around them, but as soon as they are left alone they can start to show worrying behavior like:
• Excessive howling, barking, or whining
• Destructive behavior (chewing things up, or scratching windows or doors)
• Excessive drooling or panting
• Peeing or pooping indoors, even if they are housebroken
• Dilated pupils
• Trying to escape from their crate
• Excessive licking or chewing of their fur
HOW TO HELP DOGS WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY
Whether their symptoms are severe or mild, there are multiple options and schools of thought on how to treat dogs with separation anxiety. When working with a pup that is experiencing extreme stress when left alone, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching them to enjoy or at least accept, being alone. This can be accomplished with counterconditioning, or getting your dog to appreciate the things they previously disliked.
HOW TO TREAT DOGS WITH MILD SEPARATION ANXIETY
Dogs with mild separation anxiety can usually be treated at home, and the below suggestions offer several solutions:
• Leave out clothes that you’ve worn that smell like you for your doggo to cuddle with.
• Before you leave, turn on soothing music (Spotify has playlists just for pets), turn on the TV, or plugin a diffuser with calming pheromones.
• Don’t make a big deal out of leaving the house or returning home. You can even ignore your pup for the first few minutes when you arrive back in your home.
• Give your dog a special treat when you leave (like a tasty chew or treat puzzle), and take it away when you get home. Ensure they only have access to this treat when you’re away.
• Follow consistent and predictable routines.
• Create a low stimulus environment.
• Slowly introduce potential stressors – like a friend or partner moving in or a new baby arriving – to normalize them.
HOW TO TREAT DOGS WITH SEVERE SEPARATION ANXIETY
If the problem is more severe, you may need to spend more time training your dog to be content with staying home alone. Pay attention to their body language when you are settled at home, and how it changes as you are about to leave (when picking up your keys or putting on your shoes). Consulting a behavioral specialist can also be helpful when training dogs with separation anxiety. Do not scold or punish your dog for their behavior caused by separation anxiety. These behaviors are not the result of disobedience. They are distress responses! If you punish your pup, they may become even more upset and the problem could get much worse.
With enough patience, training, and love, you can certainly make your pup more content with spending time alone when you’re not home.
DOG ARTICLES: EXERCISE
Take a (Safe) Hike with Your Pal
Gym membership, what’s that? Canine pet parents know there’s probably no more effective exercise regimen than walking their dog. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like or how tired you are; having a dog means you need to take them for walks every day.
Maybe there’s a favorite part of the city or neighborhood you like to venture to, or maybe you’re both big bark park fans. Whichever you prefer, one of the best ways to exercise with your dog is to hike.
Canines are the ideal hiking companions; they rarely voice a complaint, they run ahead but will usually wait for you, and they’re always sniffing out something interesting. Having your furry family member as a fellow adventurer can inspire you to get out more and explore the wild. Before hitting the trailhead however, keep a few important things top of mind.
Be sure your doctor and your dog’s veterinarian give the all-clear before either of you start hiking. Even if you’re both fit, a rugged hike through mountain passes and glaciers isn’t a good idea for your first long hike together. Choose a trail that complements your current level of fitness and activity. If you and your pooch normally walk for an hour at a time, a two-mile hike over moderate terrain could be an ideal adventure.
The goal of this first hike is to gauge how well the two of you do. If you get back to your car and you’re both eager to stay moving, do another loop.
When you’re out for an hour or more and several miles away from your car, make sure you have everything you need. To ensure you’re not lugging a 60-pound pack (after all, you’re nobody’s Sherpa, not even your best pal’s) or find yourself hungry and thirsty with no food or water, check this list before you set out:
- Daypack: A smaller backpack to carry all the things you’ll need.
- Doggie backpack: Get your pal in on the act by fitting him with his own small but comfortable pack to carry his food or treats.
- Treats for two: Even if it’s a short hike, be sure to bring an energy bar for you and a few treats for your dog. Making a picnic out of it? Then pack a lunch that includes your food, dog food, and healthy snacks like trail mix and beef jerky. Blue Buffalo even makes real U.S. jerky just for dogs and has a lot of grain-free BLUE Wilderness treats, too.
- Water: Staying hydrated is crucial. Bring a liter of water for every two miles you hike, and an equal amount for your dog.
- Collapsible water bowl to hold said water for your pal
- Your dog’s leash, collar and clear ID
- Small first aid kit: Include supplies to treat blisters and minor incidents, a copy of your dog’s vaccinations and your veterinarian’s emergency number.
While you and your pooch are out on the trail, keep a close eye on him. Watch for film forming around his tongue and mouth, which could mean he’s dehydrated. Overheating is a major concern for you and your dog. Avoid hiking on hot days and make sure your furry companion is properly hydrated. If he slows down, vomits or starts breathing fast and erratically, he might be overheating.
Remember to pack your dog’s leash. While you might be tempted to let him run free, try keeping him on his leash for his own safety. Surrounded by exciting new scents and numerous little critters (not all of whom are harmless), your best pal could easily be distracted, so it’s important to keep him near you.
Also, frisky dogs can truly tear up a trail so you need to keep other hikers and their furry friends in mind. A leash keeps your dog from running after strangers, their dogs, and those elusive, pesky squirrels.
There’s a great big world out there, with plenty to explore. Start by checking out this extensive list of dog-friendly hikes and start your adventure in the wild.