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Does your dog shake or cry when you get ready to leave the house? Do they greet you as if you’ve been gone for 100 years when you’ve only been gone for 15 minutes? Does your dog destroy things, dig in the yard, or pee or poop in the house when you’re gone?
You may have a dog with separation anxiety.
Treating dog separation anxiety can be frustrating to deal with. You hate to see the stress it causes your dog, but you can’t take them everywhere with you, and you can’t stay home all day, every day. Luckily, there are many things you can to help.
Below we’ll discuss 10 ways to help your dog overcome separation anxiety.
But first, let’s cover a few basics.
Canine separation anxiety is extreme stress that a dog may feel when they are separated from their guardians. This stress may lead to physical symptoms like drooling or shaking or behavioral problems like destroying things or barking.
Dog separation anxiety can not only be bothersome to your neighbors if your dog barks every time you leave your home, but it can also be deadly if your anxious dog eats something he shouldn’t or suffocates with his head in a chip bag while you’re gone. Your dog will also have a reduced quality of life if they feel this stress every time you leave, especially if you work a full-time job.
Some symptoms of separation anxiety may indicate other problems (for example, a dog who starts urinating in the house may have a bladder infection), but if your dog has more than one of these symptoms, they may have separation anxiety:
Since some of the symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs can indicate other problems, it’s important to look at your dog’s behavior as a whole. Some medical or behavioral problems that may have similar symptoms to separation anxiety may include:
While any dog may suffer from separation anxiety, some breeds are more prone to it than others, often due to their social personalities. The large dog breeds most susceptible to separation anxiety include:
While there isn’t always an obvious cause for a dog’s separation anxiety, it’s often triggered by one of the following events:
If your dog has severe separation anxiety (like you can’t even close the door to the bathroom without them losing their mind), your dog may benefit from medication to bring the anxiety down to a more manageable level. Luckily, most dogs have mild to moderate separation anxiety that can be helped with some changes on your part.
Here are 10 dog separation anxiety solutions you can try at home.
Don’t fawn over your dog when you’re getting ready to leave by doing things like telling them repeatedly that they’ll be fine without you – it feels to them like you’re giving them reasons to be anxious. Also, if the thought of leaving your dog makes you feel anxious, your dog will pick up on that, so remain calm as you prepare to leave so your dog learns that it isn’t a big deal.
You should also ignore your dog for the first 15 minutes or so after you come home until they calm down; otherwise, you’re rewarding them for giving you an overenthusiastic greeting. If your comings and goings are met with minimal fanfare, your dog can learn to understand that you leaving just isn’t a big deal.
Pheromones are hormones that people can’t smell, but dogs can. Pheromones have a calming effect and can make a world of difference for dogs with mild separation anxiety. Pheromones, found here on Amazon, are available as sprays, plug-in devices, collars, and more.
The ThunderShirt applies constant gentle pressure to your dog’s body to help relieve anxiety. The makers claim it’s more than 80% successful at reducing anxiety. You should observe your dog with it on before leaving them home alone with it since some dogs may try to take it off and chew it up.
Dogs have an extremely strong sense of smell and can be calmed by the scent of you. Leave behind the shirt you wore yesterday or slept in last night to give your dog a sense of comfort. This can be especially handy for dogs who are crate trained.
In this wonderful age of technology, there are devices that allow you to see your dog remotely, talk to them, and release treats on demand. Watching your dog on the camera allows you to see what they’re up to while you’re gone. With 2-way audio, you can talk to your dog and reassure them with your voice. Reward good behavior with treats that dispense from the cube on cue.
Large dogs have a tendency to go through toys much more quickly than smaller breeds. Make sure your dog always has plenty of toys to keep them busy while you’re gone by signing up for a monthly subscription box.
Not sure which monthly subscription box is best? Check out our article on the 5 Best Monthly Subscription Boxes for Large Dogs!
While some subscription boxes allow you to pick a toys-only option, most subscription boxes also come with treats, which can help you with some of the following training techniques.
Boredom can lead to separation anxiety, and interactive toys can help reduce boredom. Interactive toys that involve treats also give your dog something to look forward to if you only give them those treats when you leave home.
An interactive toy might be something as simple as a KONG filled with peanut butter and frozen or as complicated as a food puzzle toy where your dog must figure out how to get treats out of various compartments.
Read more about the best interactive dog toys for large dogs here!
Crate training your puppy or older dog can serve multiple purposes. Not only does it keep them safe and prevent them from destroying your home while you’re gone, but your dog can learn that it is a safe place where they can be calm and feel protected while you’re away.
While some people believe that leaving dogs in crates all day is cruel, isn’t it preferable to your dog swallowing something they can’t digest and needing surgery or even passing away? Until you’ve found another method for controlling your dog’s separation anxiety, crate training can be a lifesaver.
Learn more about how to crate train an older dog with separation anxiety here.
You may want to enlist the help of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) to create a plan that will help your dog get used to being alone. These techniques are often required for dogs who have moderate to severe separation anxiety.
A few things that may be part of a desensitization and counterconditioning program include:
Since most large breeds were bred to do some type of work, training your dog to do a job or activity can help give them a purpose and an outlet for their energy, which may help them stay calm when they’re left alone. A few “jobs” you can train your dog for include:
Dealing with a dog with separation anxiety can be frustrating for both of you, but using some of these techniques can help make a huge difference in your dog’s quality of life and help you know that your dog isn’t suffering every time you leave home.
With some time, experimenting, and patience, you can find the best combination of tools and techniques to relieve your dog’s separation anxiety.
You tell us: Have we missed anything? Do you have any additional tips for our readers on ways you’ve found to help your dog with separation anxiety? Let us know in the comments!