Separation anxiety occurs when dogs feel frightened and distressed at the absence of their owner. This type of attachment problem can be mild or severe. A mild case is often exhibited when the dog is pacing, over-grooming, and panting, whereas a severe case of separation anxiety can be quite a challenge for the owner. The dog soils the house, cries nonstop, barks or howls, and destroys furniture and other objects around the house. Often times, the dog starts to show behaviors associated with separation anxiety after being left alone for only ten or fifteen minutes.
Dogs that are more at risk of developing separation anxiety are those rescued from shelters, were living on the streets, or were locked inside a crate or kennel most of their lives. And because this behavior only occurs when the dog is left alone, there’s really nothing you can do to stop him from destroying your home or irritating the neighbors every time you leave the house. However, you can teach your dog not to be scared or panic during your absence.
Here are five ways that can help.
1. Some dogs feel comfortable being confined to a small space such as a crate or a small gated area of the house, while others feel comfortable safely out in the backyard. If your dog starts to feel agitated when crated, take him out and do not try to force it because it can only make matters worse.
2. In some cases, confining your dog to a small area where he has viewing access to the outside world is enough to make him feel comfortable and eliminate separation anxiety. You can place his crate or bed in front of a sliding glass door or a clear window.
3. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety because of boredom. Find a job that your dog can do. Teach him how to play “Find it” – a game that he can play by himself. To play this game, you must hide his favorite bones or stuffed treats where he can find them. To keep him busy, use three or five bones or treats (depending on how long you’ll be gone).
4. Another way to fight boredom is to provide your dog with plenty of toys. Rotate the toys so he will not get tired of playing with them. Playing, chewing, chasing, and hunting for his toys or treats has the power to cause your dog utilize his natural canine instincts while keeping him occupied for hours.
5. Leave the television on or play a soft, relaxing music. Researches have shown that soft, classical music relaxes dogs. Pick something that you listen to when you are at home, so your pet doesn’t relate the music to your absence.
The information shared on this site is for information only. It does not take the place of professional advice from your pet’s healthcare provider.