As the pandemic becomes a thing of the past, many employees are returning to work on-site. However, these employees are finding that their dogs are not adjusting well.
Dog owners find separation anxiety a common ailment in their dogs. Separation anxiety can cause significant stress on the owner and the canine. Each dog can display different symptoms of anxiety. However, separation anxiety is characterized by persistent severe distress when the dog is left alone.
Separation anxiety can exist in young puppies or develop suddenly in adult dogs. Changes in routine, lack of exercise, lack of socialization, or a traumatic experience can all cause separation anxiety to develop. Not all dogs will experience separation anxiety. It is personality-based, sometimes breed-based, and dependent on your established routine with your dog.
It is also possible that a medical issue causes separation anxiety. If your dog develops anxiety suddenly, consult with your veterinarian. Urinary tract infections and gastrointestinal issues can trigger anxiety.
Identifying Signs of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a medical condition that manifests differently for every dog. However, there are common symptoms that you can expect to see if your dog is struggling with separation. The signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in your dog are:
- Destructive behavior
- Excessive whining or barking
- Breaking potty training habits (urinating or defecating indoors)
- Refusing to eat or drink
- Breaking out of the crate and/or attacking the door
- Excessive drooling or panting
Lack of stimulus or exercise can also cause destructive habits and barking. The most important factor for these symptoms is that they only occur when the dog is left alone.
Consulting a Veterinarian
Your veterinarian will help you navigate through the symptoms of separation anxiety. Consult with your veterinarian immediately if your adult dog suddenly develops any of these symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms with a younger puppy, make sure to bring it up at the next round of puppy vaccines.
During your appointment, your veterinarian will ask several questions to assess your dog. In addition to your dog’s medical history, your veterinarian will ask about behaviors and triggers. There are multiple avenues to treat separation anxiety. Your veterinarian may suggest behavior modifications, environmental changes, and medication.
Training Techniques to Alleviate Anxiety
Gradual desensitization is an excellent method for reducing anxiety. It is one of the best methods for working with a puppy. With this technique, you will separate from your dog for extended periods, starting small.
As your dog adjusts to you leaving, you can extend the amount of separation time. This method will adjust your dog to the concept of being alone. Turning on the television or radio is also beneficial to create some background noise.
Counterconditioning is a behavioral training technique that associates positive experiences with being alone. This method can reduce the severity of separation anxiety in your dog. You can make several positive associations when you leave your dog alone. You can provide puzzle games and treats. You can also leave out your dog’s favorite toy before you leave.
Create a Safe Space
Your house is also your dog’s house. You want to make it as comfortable as possible for your dog. Anxiety can build in a stressful space. In your home, give your dog a den. This can be a crate or a comfortable bed. You just want to make a space that is truly your dog’s space in a quiet area of the house. Additionally, there are several pheromone brands that can be used to calm your dog.
Distractions can alleviate a lot of the stress of separation anxiety. Boredom will also lead to destructive behaviors and anxiety symptoms. Dog toys that challenge your dog to think are amazing options. Hundreds of products on the market are designed for dogs when left alone.
Leaving the television or radio on will help your dog feel less alone. The sound fills the background noise and can reduce potential stressful triggers. There are also several treat-dispensing toys and cameras available for dog owners. You can now video chat with your dog and supply a treat for good behavior.
For some dogs, behavioral and environmental treatments are not effective. In these cases, your veterinarian may find medication a necessary treatment method.
The medical treatment for anxiety in dogs is like that of humans. Medications include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and antidepressants. One or both medications can help your dog with his anxiety.
SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can help reduce anxiety. Antidepressants work similarly, but they also affect other neurotransmitters in the brain. Medication is not a cure for anxiety. It will likely be needed lifelong. Moreover, you should combine medication with behavioral and environmental changes.
Preventing Separation Anxiety
Establishing a Routine
Dogs love routine. With set times, your dog will feel less anxiety over meals, exercise, and your arrival. Keep to the routine even if you do not go to work. Consistency is an amazing way to reduce stress in your dog.
Dogs are a part of our family. However, they will thrive if they are not overly possessive of their humans. You must allow your dog to establish some independence. You can promote your dog’s independence by allowing your dog to spend some time alone. You should start with short periods and build up to longer periods. Of course, a special place in your house for your dog is also vital.
Do not associate your return with excessive attention or affection. Additionally, use positive reinforcement for calm behavior when you leave and return. Finally, encourage your dog to play with toys independently, even in your presence.
With these methods, you can help alleviate significant stress on you and your dog.