Puppies are playful, friendly animals. Cuddling their human parent is their way of showing their love and affection. But this behavior changes abruptly when they see their favorite person or handler leave them. Constant whining, acting clingy, or scratching the sofa with the claws until your return are signs that your pup is stressed out at the idea of being left alone.
As a caring dog parent, you want your pet to stay happy even when you are not around, but how to pull your furry friend out of this anxiety? You can prevent and treat separation anxiety by implying some simple tactics.
Dogs Can Also Have Anxiety Disorder
Do you feel anxious or nervous when forced to meet new people, or maybe the idea of attending a big party filled with strangers gets over you? Pups feel the same way when they have to stay at home (alone) without their favorite person around them.
Separation anxiety (SP) is common in dogs, especially puppies (Concluded by Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic). About 20%-40% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety in North America. When puppies are brought to a new home, they are already feeling anxious and thus want a familiar face around when trying to settle into their new home. But when they are left alone, their anxiety level begins to spike up.
It’s common for a dog to be unhappy or whine a little every time his handler prepares to go out. But true separation anxiety can hit your dog pretty hard. He will start to exhibit extreme stress and malicious behavior such as digging and inappropriate urinating around the house.
However, instead of punishing your furry friend, specialists recommend taking effective measures to prevent and treat the problem. By helping him cope with SP, you can help your pet feel safe and happy even when you are not home.
What is Dog Separation Anxiety?
The stressful response of your dog or pup when they have to stay away from the person they are attached to (their owner), even for a short period, is known as dog separation anxiety. They remain in this state from the time they are left to finally when they get united with their owner.
Think of it as a panic attack in humans that is more serious of an issue compared to occasional whining, barking, and being mischievous when no one is around.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Dogs enjoy a consistent routine, and often when they face a sudden change, they become stressed out. Typical separation anxiety symptoms involve occasional barking, whining, chewing, and destroying toys. These are some ways how a pup naturally behaves when trying to adjust to new surroundings.
But the prolonged display of these symptoms clearly indicates that your little friend is facing separation anxiety and needs your assistance. Some common symptoms include the following:
- Repetitive high-pitched barking and howling.
- Destructive chewing.
- Digging around windows and doors at home.
- Excessive salivation, drooling and panting.
- Attempts to escape confinement.
- Urinating and defecating
How to Calm and Treat Puppy Separation Anxiety?
A report published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science revealed that dog owners often get rid of their pets when faced with the common symptoms of separation anxiety.
However, if you are a caring dog parent and want to learn how to resolve the underlying anxiety issues of your dog, we can help you out. We have several simple techniques you can use to train your dog to cope with loneliness and enjoy the home alone time.
Design a Comfortable Crate
Giving your pup a crate containing all his favorite belongings is an excellent way to keep him relaxed even when he is lonely. Most dogs feel safe and comfortable inside their crates. The crate is their personal place and helps them relax when stressed out.
Since your puppy is adjusting to his new home, it will be best to encourage the "Crate behavior." You need only a few tricks to promote crate association. Firstly, make sure the crate has a soft, comfortable dog blanket. Next, reward your puppy for remaining inside the crate. Using food dispensing toys, such as the Magic Snuffle Band, to distract your dog works for almost every dog. You can hide food inside the toy and place it inside the crate for your dog to enjoy. It will reduce anxiety and give them a better way of utilizing their build-up energy.
Play with Your Pup
Dogs are energetic creatures. They love exercising, indulging in physical activities, and playing new games. You can take your pup for a brisk walk and burn calories with various physical activities. This will leave them tired, needing rest by the time you are ready to leave the house.
Along with physical activity, give your dog some mental exercise as well. For example, a puzzle toy such as a slow feeder mat not only makes feeding easy but is also a good way of giving your dog some mental exercise while he eats his favorite food. You can even use these feeding mats as a source of distraction during showers and monthly vet visits.
Practice Short Departures
After creating a cozy crate for your dog filled with surprising treats and his favorite toys, start by practicing short departures. Start by leaving your pup in the room while you prepare his food in the kitchen. This will encourage him to be independent when you are not around.
Don’t display a surge of emotions after coming back home. Give a gentle pat to your friend and keep a low-key. This way, he will get used to your behavior and start adjusting better when left alone.
Expand the Left out Time Gradually
Once your pup learns to stay relaxed and happy for a few minutes without you, gradually increase the duration. Go away for 10 minutes, then 20, and then long hours. Remember to take it slow and respect your dog's pace. Don’t forget to treat him every time he behaves nicely.
Use Calming Medicine
If your dog still feels anxious and troubled at the sight of you leaving the house, consult the veteran. Get some calming medicine for your pup.
What Won’t Help?
Do not make leaving and returning a big event. Limit the attention you give to your pup before the family goes out, so he understands that “going and coming” is a natural thing. By showering him with lots of goodbye kisses, you will only make your pet feel more stressed.
Moreover, after entering the home, don’t get over-excited and rush to greet your pup. Taking him out of the crate casually and giving him a warm smile should suffice. Gradually, your pup will adjust to this behavior and learn to remain calm even when he sees you leave or enter the house.