Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Dogs

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separation anxiety in dogsThere’s nothing like coming home after a long day at work to find furniture destroyed, semi-fresh spots of urine on the carpet and shreds of something papery all over the place. Your dog never behaves like this when you are around, so what gives?

While your pet could simply be waiting for an unsupervised opportunity to engage in mischief, he may be one of may be one of the many dogs out there that really hates goodbyes. Canine separation anxiety can be a real problem for dog and owner alike. After all, dogs don’t always deal with their stress in constructive ways.

Canines suffering from separation anxiety tend to follow their owners from room to room at home and greet them frantically when they get home, even if they were only gone for a few minutes. Watch your pup in the morning. If he paces nervously as you get ready to go and starts howling or scratching at the door the minute you step out, then there’s a good chance he has separation anxiety, according to the Humane Society of the United States website.

 Five ways to reduce departure stress

1. False departures: Grab your keys, hat and coat, then take a seat on the couch. Your dog knows the sights and sounds of you leaving, so faking him out can help “de-condition” the anxious reaction. Follow through with some of your fake departures by leaving and locking the door behind you, then wait 10 to 30 seconds and come right back inside. The goal is to help your dog understand that you won’t be leaving for eternity when you head out the door.

2. No long goodbyes: It’s hard not to fawn over your pup before you leave for work in the morning, especially if he has problems with separation anxiety. Resist the temptation though. Avoid contact with your dog during the last five to ten minutes before you leave the house. A small pat on the head is okay once in a while, but don’t reinforce his belief that you departures are a big deal by showering him with love and attention.

3. Give the poor dog a bone: Your dog won’t be quite as lonely if he has something constructive to do while you are away. Give him a chewable toy, preferably with treats stuffed inside, or a bone that he can gnaw on if you are going to be gone all day. This creates a positive association with your departure. You can also leave one of your shirts with your dog so he can interact with your scent during the day.

4. Exercise: Take your dog for a walk or let him outside in a safe area to run around every morning before you head out. A tired dog is much less likely to take out his anxiety on the furniture as it gives him a behavioral “outlet,” according to the ASPCA website. Exercise should be a part of every dog’s daily routine, because it’s critical for their mental and physical health.

5. Ask the vet: It may seem a little silly to ask your vet about your pet’s separation issues, but don’t hesitate to do so. If all else fails, he can recommend medication to calm your dog down. Some signs of separation anxiety in dogs, particularly house soiling, could actually be the result of a medical problem.

Remember, don’t yell at your dog or scold him for bad behavior when you are away. You can minimize his destructive habits by confining him to a single room in the house or a spacious crate. Don’t leave your dog in a tiny kennel