Does your dog go a little too crazy when you are away? It could be a sign of separation anxiety. We all want our dogs to be jumping with joy whenever they see us because it makes us feel loved and important. But if the stress of you being away is causing problems, it’s time to address what is really going on inside your dog’s head.
Dogs are pack animals and they want the pack to stay together. If you notice your dog gets carried away whenever someone enters or leaves the pack, there’s a good chance your dog experiences separation anxiety while you are away. Dogs have very extreme emotions around the importance of the pack. Togetherness is how they sense security and the ways things should be.
Here are of the things your dog might do if he’s experiencing separation anxiety:
- Chewing on the furniture
- Crying or barking excessively
- Digging or trying to escape
- Marking the house excessively with urine or poop
- Pacing the floor
To help your dog adapt to the fact that you need to leave the house, the first thing you will want to do is eliminate the drama around you leaving. No long goodbyes and a million kisses before you depart. Try to make your coming and going nonchalant without any emotion of sadness or overjoy. Your goal is to desensitize your departures and arrivals so your dog sees them as neutral. Try ignoring your dog for about 15 minutes before you leave the house as well as after you get home. No high voiced “hello” when you walk through the door. Just be neutral and calm. Pretty soon your dog will see that your absences are nothing to get worried about.
Try offering a distraction for your dog to think about when you leave. Treat dispensing balls are a great way to get your dog to associate your leaving with something positive.
Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise during the day. Most dogs require at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. If it’s too hard for you to fit that into your routine, consider taking your dog to a doggie daycare at least a few days a week. Doggie daycare also offers your dog a way to be a part of a secondary pack, which eliminates anxiety of being alone.
Some dogs respond well to having watching DogTV, a cable TV channel available by subscription. The channel was designed to help dogs overcome loneliness, anxiety and depression. They play calming music and show images of puppies and nature and things your dog loves.
You can also try music that was designed specifically for dogs. iCalm Pet offers a music player for you to leave on while you are away. You can also find plenty of albums on iTunes and Spotify. There is also an All Dog Radio available at www.woofswoofs.com. You could also just try playing some calming classical music or spa/meditation music.
Keeping your dog happy when you are home is also an important part of overcoming separation anxiety. Take a class together, keep your dog’s mind engaged and keep him active. A tired dog is a happy dog.
There are various calming herbs, collars, dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) plug-ins and medications that some dogs might need, but try behavior related solutions first. If they don’t work, Adaptil plug-in diffusers are a good thing to try next, then the collars, then perhaps an herb or calming treat your vet recommends. Use a medication only as a last resort.
Doggie Daycare could very well be a solution that works best for your dog. It’s a great way to keep your dog engaged, allow him to feel part of another pack while you are gone, your house stays clean and unharmed and your dog gets his daily dose of exercise. It’s not the only solution, but it is one that works for many.