Have you ever come home to an over-excited pup paired with a soiled rug and a chewed up couch? Does your dog get clingy or seem anxious when you head out of the house? If this sounds familiar, your pup is probably suffering from separation anxiety. Pups with separation anxiety may display symptoms such as barking or howling, destroying items in the house, having accidents, attempting to escape, pacing, or hectic welcoming once the owner has returned.
Separation anxiety can be caused by a pet’s change of ownership, a change in a pet’s schedule or home, the death of a pet friend, a change in the family makeup (i.e. children going to college or birth of new children), puppy malnutrition, or other traumatic events. Some dogs may naturally develop separation anxiety as they become attached to their owners, or if they are often left alone for long periods of time.
In order to help train your pup to feel more relaxed when you aren’t there, you may need to adjust your routine:
- Exercise. It’s important to keep your pup moving! If your dog has gone for a walk, they are more likely to feel tired and will be less focused on you leaving. A tired dog is usually a happy dog!
- Make sure they’re comfortable. Create an oasis for your pup. Set up a relaxing, enjoyable space by adding toys, favorite pillows/ blankets, or even clothes that smell like you can make being alone more comfortable. You can give your pup a special treat or a puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter to distract your pup, while conditioning them to associate being alone with TREATS- so make it tasty!
- Purchase anxiety-reducing products. Try calming your pup with a white noise machine. Just like people, pups enjoy the relaxing sounds of white noise. You can also get your pup a compression shirt, which compresses your dog’s body, providing a comforting feeling. A change in your pups diet could also reduce anxiety, so try feeding your dog calming food supplements.
- Change the way you leave. Rather than gathering your belongings, putting on shoes, grabbing your keys and leaving, you should do all of those things and not leave. Your leaving routine could be sparking your pup’s anxiety, so try to switch it up.
- No grand entrances. Try not to make greetings or goodbyes too exciting. You can even try ignoring your pup as you walk in the door and for the first few minutes that you’re home. If your pup doesn’t notice you have left or returned, they will likely be less anxious to be alone.