A common concern for pet owners is their pet’s separation anxiety. This is often a concern for owners who want to travel with their pets, but fear that their furry friend will be too stressed out to ride in the cargo hold of an airplane, where they will be separated from their owners. Separation anxiety is more typically seen in dogs, as cats are generally more aloof and less inclined to act out or show their anxiety beyond excessive meowing.
Separation anxiety in dogs can manifest itself in destructive ways. Dogs who become anxious when separated from their owners might be inclined to bark incessantly, have bathroom accidents, chew on furniture, or tear up yards and houses. In mild cases of separation anxiety, the following tips should help ease your pup’s worry and correct the behavior. For more severe cases, you might want to try the desensitization process outlined in this PetRelocation blog post.
Keep It Low-Key
You may have noticed that your dog gets frantic and overexcited when you come home after work. The dog’s display of excitement likely makes you excited, and causes you to make a big fuss over your pooch, thereby further exciting the dog. Excitement is normal, but for dogs with separation anxiety this process reinforces the idea that your time spent apart was a big deal and that now that you are together everything is better.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, try to keep your departures and arrivals low-key. Ignore your dog for a few minutes before your leave the house and when you return home. This teaches the dog that your coming and going is just business as usual.
Leave Him with Your Scent
If your dog misses you when you’re away, try leaving him with something that smells like you. Giving your dog an old t-shirt that you’ve recently slept in, for example, can help ease his worries that you’ve disappeared. Just make sure it’s something you’re not too attached to, as it might get chewed!
Tire Him Out
Be sure to thoroughly walk your dog before you leave him alone for any length of time. A tired dog is a calm dog, a calm dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog is an intact house!
Keep Him Entertained
Oftentimes, dogs who exhibit destructive behavior when left alone are simply bored. Provide interactive, challenging toys to make sure that your dog stays entertained. Toys that can be stuffed with treats are ideal, as they reward solitary play and provide intellectual stimulation as your dog tries to figure out how to remove the treats. Two such toys are Petmate’s plush Buddhas and the Wobbling Treatball.
An additional benefit of giving your dog interactive toys when leaving him alone is that, if done consistently, the ritual of presenting a certain toy becomes a “safety cue”. A safety cue is a word or action that you repeat every time you leave which assures your dog that you will return.
Crate Training is Key, Especially When Traveling
Some owners keep their dogs crated during the day, and others only use crates to transport their pets. Either way, if your pup has separation anxiety and associates his crate with being left alone, he may learn to dislike the crate. Making sure that your dog is properly crate trained from an early age ensures that he will think of his crate as a safe space. This is especially important when traveling, as the stress and separation anxiety felt during travel can be eased by being in his familiar crate.
Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety? What do you do to ease your pet’s stress? Tell us about it in the comments below.