Separation anxiety in dogs is like having a panic attack when they are left alone. While this often occurs in young dogs and puppies, it can also develop at any time in life for older pets. During the pandemic, many of us have been forced to work from home and have found new furrever friends to keep us company. But, with new orders to come back to the office returning to work can be a bit of a shock for our pets. Whether you’ve just adopted a new dog or your long-time fur buddy has just gotten used to you being home all the time here are some steps that will help your dog cope with separation anxiety.
What Causes Separation Anxiety?
Many dogs go through a range of behavioral issues as their life progresses. It’s really unclear why some dogs develop separation anxiety over others, but it may have to do with their personality traits and breed tendencies. Other reasons might include never leaving your dog home alone before, a sudden change in schedule, the absence of a family member, or experiencing a traumatic event such as being abandoned.
Preventing Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Training towards preventing separation anxiety in dogs is more easily achieved with young dogs and puppies. At a young age, you can practice leaving your dog home alone for periods of time. This will help establish a routine for your pet that they can come to expect on a daily basis. Just like children, dogs also thrive on routine. Helping a dog with separation anxiety that has been well established is much harder work, but not impossible as we will explain.
Exercise may also be an answer to preventing separation anxiety in dogs. Young dogs, and certain breeds of dog at any age, have a ton of extra energy that needs to be channeled. If you don’t help them burn off the energy, they may turn it towards destructive behaviors as seen with separation anxiety. Helping your dog may simply start with a good long walk and a play session!
How Do You Recognize Separation Anxiety?
As we mentioned earlier, separation anxiety in dogs can be compared to having a panic attack. They may exhibit any of the following behaviors:
- Barking or howling
- Whining, pacing, or shaking
- Destroying things inside your home
- Excessive drooling, panting, or salivating
- Attempts to escape
While some of these symptoms can happen occasionally and not indicate separation anxiety, a dog showing multiple symptoms on a regular basis may be suffering from separation anxiety.
Gradual Desensitization to Help Dogs With Separation Anxiety
Gradually leaving a dog home alone is one of the best methods to help a dog with separation anxiety. Here are the training steps you should follow:
- Find Your Dog’s Threshold
- Practice Leaving Your Dog Home
- Give Your Dog Departure Cues
- Take Training Breaks
1) Find Your Dog’s Threshold
How long it takes for your dog to start panicking after you’ve left is your dog’s threshold. If they start to panic 15 seconds after you’ve left, then your training should begin here. Any longer, and your dog is already too deep into panic mode. To find their threshold, you can set up cameras or use an app like FaceTime on your smartphone to observe when they start exhibiting the first signs of separation anxiety.
2) Practice Leaving Your Dog Home Alone
The key to this step is GRADUALLY leaving your dog home alone. Most dogs will recognize signs that you are leaving like putting your shoes on, grabbing the car keys, and locking the door. When starting training, cut these departure cues out. You may need to crack the door, and then close it without leaving. Take a break to do something normal like watching a couple minutes of TV or cleaning a little. After your short break, walk to the door, step outside, and immediately return. Take another break, then walk out the door and close it behind you, returning shortly after. Training in this method can slowly progress in the length of time you are outside of the home. Only train for about 30 minutes each day when helping your dog with separation anxiety.
3) Work in Departure Cues
When you are returning to work, you’re going to need to put on shoes and grab your car keys. Once your dog is making progress with training, you can start to add one departure cue into your training routine per week. Adding too many cues at once might cause regression. Another thing you want to avoid when helping dogs with separation anxiety is dramatic goodbyes. Making a fuss to tell them you are leaving will only add to their stress and can elevate their separation anxiety. Instead, simply walk out the door without acknowledging them.
4) Take Breaks from Training
You don’t need to work on training to help your dog with separation anxiety everyday. In fact, it is best for both of you to take a break from training at least once or twice per week. This training is high-stress for your dog and that is why it is recommended not to exceed 30 minutes of training per day. You’ll also want to change up the times of day at which you practice training. If you always practice training at 11am, your dog may become stressed once they are suddenly left alone during other times of the day. And, if you have other family members, be sure they participate in training sessions, too.
Training With CBD Pet Products
When it comes to training and preventing separation anxiety in dogs, outcomes will vary because all dogs, no matter their age or breed, are individuals. Using CBD oil pet products can help your dog with separation anxiety to keep calm during the training process. And, because CBD is safe for daily use, it can be a great option to help your pet relax when the time comes for you to return to work.
Chill Paws offers high-quality, affordable CBD tincture for dogs of any size, as well as treats for dogs that can help them with separation anxiety in combination with training. Our products are third party lab-tested to ensure your pet is getting the best quality without nasty additives. Give your pet some relief today!