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How to help your dog’s separation anxiety

 by lucy on 19 Oct 2016 |
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If you’ve ever come home to find furniture overturned, blankets chewed and claw marks on the door, chances are you’re dealing with a dog with separation anxiety. This condition doesn’t just cause problems for your pet, but can also lead to frustration and anger for you as his owner. Fortunately, a host of techniques can help alleviate your dog’s separation woes.
 
Dogs rely heavily on their packs for protection and hunting in the wild, so it should come as no surprise that our canine companions hate being left alone. Separation anxiety is a panic response in which a dog shows symptoms such as destructive behavior, house soiling and unremitting barking or crying when left alone. Not all bad behavior is related to isolation, however, and owners should carefully observe their dog’s symptoms before treating him for separation anxiety. Separation-related behaviors often center on escape efforts, such as clawing or gnawing on doorframes, windowsills and trim, for example. Elimination problems related to separation anxiety will only occur while you’re away from home. If Fido is having problems soiling the carpet while you are in the house, too, he is likely experiencing a housetraining issue rather than separation anxiety. Likewise, if his destructive habits take their toll throughout your home, and not just around escape routes, he may be acting out for another reason than separation anxiety.
 
If you’re sure your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, there are a number ways to help relieve his stress. Make sure he gets plenty of exercise before you leave the home to help burn off energy he would otherwise spend feeling anxious and engaging in destructive behavior. Before you leave, give your dog a Kong or rawhide bone to distract him. Try switching up pieces of your exit routine — pick up your keys and then sit down on the couch to watch television, for example— and keep comings and goings as calm as possible so your dog doesn’t see them as a major event. You can also leave a piece of recently worn clothing that smells like you or try using a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) diffuser to calm Fido down. If you are often out for long stretches, consider enrolling your pet in a doggie daycare or finding a pet sitter to help minimize the time he spends home alone.
 
Crating your dog will not help in cases of separation anxiety, and may even result in injuries as he tries to escape. Likewise, getting a second pet may not help if your dog feels anxious when separated from you, specifically, rather than simply worrying about being left alone. If you try several solutions and are still struggling with an anxious pet, a behavioral specialist can help address your dog’s separation stress. Remember, punishment is never an effective treatment for separation-related behaviors and will only make matters worse.

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