With the recent return to offices, we may find our dogs having a tough time returning to pre-pandemic conditions. Separation anxiety can be a real stressor in our dogs’ lives. Dogs and puppies who have not been left alone for most of the pandemic can especially be susceptible to experiencing anxiety. This blog looks at dogs and separation anxiety, including the signs to look out for and ways to treat it.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a feeling of codependency that your dog develops toward you. Dogs with separation anxiety feel stressed and anxious when they see or think you are about to leave without them. As cute as it may be to have your dog obsessed with you, it is ultimately a very unhealthy reaction that can cause them more harm to their health and well-being. A dog with separation anxiety is also harder to care for, and you will always be worried about leaving them behind. Having a confident dog in your return and being well-behaved will give you peace of mind whenever you need to leave them alone.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
The most common sign of separation anxiety is the loud vocalization, barking and panting when you leave the house. Often, you can hear your dog crying, whining, and barking after you close the door behind you. Other signs of separation anxiety can be destructive or attention-seeking. Some dogs engage in destructive behavior like ripping apart cushions or chewing on furniture. Dogs can also get into things they shouldn’t. Things like the trashcan or any plants that you may have in your home can be shredded. Some substances, if ingested, can also be poisonous to your dog. With April also being pet poison prevention month, be sure you put away any dangerous chemicals or plants that you may have in your home.
Identifying the Trigger
Training and treatment for separation anxiety depend on how severe the stress is. For the most part, separation anxiety can be resolved through consistent training and patience. The first thing to pinpoint is the trigger of the anxiety. The trigger is the sign or action that informs them you are leaving and causes the anxious reaction in your dog. Something like grabbing your keys or putting on your coat can send the message that you are leaving home. The trigger can be a variety of things so be sure to observe your dog’s behavior in various situations.
Training and Treatment
Once the trigger is identified, you can start implementing positive reinforcement training techniques. These techniques help associate the trigger to a positive outcome, such as a treat. After some time, your dog will learn to look forward to you returning home since they will know they will get a treat upon your return. Practicing this training method with shorter time intervals at first can help your dog get accustomed. Your time out of the house can be extended more and more once your dog gets more comfortable. Some separation anxiety can be more challenging to fix, and a professional may need to be involved. If this is the case, be sure to talk to your veterinarian, and they can recommend an animal behaviorist that can help.
East Paws is Here to Help
Separation anxiety is treatable. Depending on your dog’s severity, treatment and training may differ, but with determination and consistency, your dog will come to not worry about you leaving the house. We would love to help you with your dog’s anxiety at East Paws Pet Services with our enrichment programs. We provide enrichment walks and enrichment visits to ensure your dog gets the care and attention they deserve. Having someone check in on them and distract them with fun can help get their mind off waiting for you. Please get in touch with us for more information about these enrichment services!