Most pet parents have seen their beloved pooch display a degree of separation anxiety at some stage of their lives, usually when they first bring their dog home from the breeder or shelter. This behavior usually passes once the dog becomes more settled and secure in their new home. According to the ASPCA, it can often become a chronic problem though, leading to unwanted behaviors and stress for both owner and pet. However, there are numerous products to help reduce your dog’s anxiety, usually in conjunction with behavioral training.
Why do dogs become stressed?
No one knows for certain what causes separation anxiety in our best friends. Shelter dogs can be more prone, as they may have already experienced ‘abandonment’ by a previous owner. Some breeds can be more susceptible, especially small dogs. Significant changes in the dog’s life may also trigger stress-related behavior, for example moving house or loss of a family member. Whatever the cause, the symptoms such as barking, howling, chewing, destruction, urinating or pacing can make even the shortest time apart into a huge ordeal.
Ways to help
Firstly, ensure that your pet has no underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the problem. Once you have the all clear from your veterinarian there are many ways that you can help your dog. The aim is to reduce your dog’s anxiety surrounding your departure, and ensure he knows that you will return, thus staying calm while you are absent. You may also want to consider having your dog undergo behavioral training, which may help your pet cope with stress and anxiety.
Some dogs display signs of stress when left in new environments, for example, the groomers or doggy daycare. There are many products that can help with this, including thunder coats, calming collars and medication, but behavioral training is paramount to normalizing dogs to these situations. A great trick is to stop in at the groomers regularly just for some cuddles and treats, so your dog learns to look forward to these sessions, making leaving them there much easier.
At the end of the day, we all want to be able to leave our dog now and then, knowing that they are calm and relaxed. The fear that mommy and daddy may not come back is very real for some of our besties and it can really impact our daily lives. But with committed retraining and behavioral aids, significant improvements can be made. Remember though, breaking these habits can take time so let your dog do the sprinting in the park; you’re in for a longer marathon.
~ by Janette Moon, Freelance Writer