Help! My Dog Has Separation Anxiety!
Here’s how to help your panicked pup ❤
Hanging out at home with your dog is the absolute best. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be with your pup every second of every day, and some pups REALLY struggle with being left alone.
While separation anxiety can be heartbreaking and even be dangerous to your dog, especially if your pup becomes destructive, there are things you can do to help. The Dodo spoke with Dr. Andrea Y. Tu, medical director of Behavior Vets of New York, to find out more.
Does your dog have separation anxiety?
Most dogs are a little clingy, especially around their favorite person (that’s you!). But separation anxiety is when that clinginess becomes severe enough to affect their behavior, and it’s not something they can just turn off.
“What separation anxiety actually is, is a true panic,” Dr. Tu told The Dodo. “It’s not just ‘I’m being difficult.’”
Barking is the most common indicator of separation anxiety, but if your dog suffers from an anxiety disorder, he might exhibit some of these other signs:
- House soiling
- Not eating
It can be hard to tell if your dog has true separation anxiety, since some of the symptoms are actually pretty common.
Dr. Tu recommends keeping an eye on him while you’re out of the house, if you aren’t sure.
“Get one of those cheap web cams at home and just see what your dog is doing,” Dr. Tu said. “Sometimes, it could be that they’re only barking for those first few seconds when you’re leaving and coming home. That’s not separation anxiety.”
By watching your pup, you can monitor him for signs that aren’t as obvious.
Dr. Tu explained, “Sometimes they may not be barking that much, but if this dog is just panting and restless the whole [time] you’re out of the house, that’s not normal.”
How to help a dog with separation anxiety
The first thing you should do is contact your vet if your dog is acting abnormally.
“It’s always important when you have a behavior condition that you really should be reaching out to your veterinarian first before you try home remedies or work with a trainer,” Dr. Tu said. “Because you may be missing something big.”
And if your dog does, in fact, have separation anxiety? What next?
Turns out, there are a bunch of ways to help ease his anxiety, like:
- Training and behavior modification
- Medication or supplements
- Environment management (AKA things you can do at home)
You should work with your vet to figure out the best treatment plan for your individual pup. After that, Dr. Tu said there are also some simple things you can try to supplement that plan, such as using pheromone products.
“The big thing that I find with this supplement — it’s not a medication, it’s a supplement — it tends to do minimal harm,” she said. “You’re not really feeding it to a dog.” In other words, it can only help.
Members of the Dodo team have also had success using ThunderShirts for their anxious pups.
Some people feel inclined to give their pup something comforting — like a high-value toy to keep him distracted, or a favorite blanket — when they leave home. But if you do, don’t only give him those things as you’re about to leave, because that could actually make things worse.
“[Dogs] start to associate, and they kind of start to put together the picture of what leads up to your departure,” Dr. Tu warned.
Basically, your dog will notice all the things you do before you leave — like putting on your shoes or grabbing your keys — and start to anticipate when you’re going out before you’re even gone.
“I’ve had some patients where they will start to panic when the owner goes to take a shower, because they know that next thing, in half an hour, you’re out the door,” she said.
So, if you know there are certain toys that make your dog feel better, just make sure he has them all the time, so it’s not only linked to you leaving.
If your dog’s anxiety is really severe, you might want to consider having someone come to watch him when you’re not home, or finding a doggy playgroup, at least until you can figure out a treatment with your vet.
“If the dog has severe separation anxiety when they’re left at home, and you can do this, have them go to doggy day care when you’re at work,” Dr. Tu suggested. “You just kind of have to change the environment.”
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