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How to treat separation anxiety

By May 23, 2021 blog

With more people working from home during lockdown, one silver lining has been lots of quality time with our pups. However, as many people are now heading back to the office, separation anxiety poses a real risk. Here’s everything you need to know about helping your dog with separation anxiety.

separation anxiety dog

Is Separation Anxiety Bad for Dogs?

Separation anxiety is emotional distress experienced by pets when separated from their person, often resulting in destructive behaviors. For starters, nobody wants their beloved pet to be distressed. But separation anxiety can also present in ways that might be harmful to your dog. Some symptoms to be concerned about include:

  • Urination or elimination
  • Chewing or scratching, which can bring along choking hazards or the risk that your pup will get into something toxic
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Excessive vocalization, barking, or whining
  • Pacing, panting, and excessive drooling
  • Dangerous escape attempts
  • Overreactions to your return

Dog owners should be aware of these risks and symptoms. However, before you get too worried, know that there is a lot that can be done to help prevent and manage separation anxiety. 

puppy chewing on a toyHow Do You Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Prevention is key when it comes to stopping separation anxiety. Fortunately, there’s a simple formula that you can start even before heading back to the office:

  • Aim to give your pet 20 minutes of alone time every day. This will help them get used to you leaving and teach them that alone time isn’t scary.
  • If 20 minutes is hard for your pup, work up to it! Start by leaving them alone for five minutes, then ten minutes, etc. The hardest part for your pup will be the initial moment that you leave, so you’ll definitely want to try to help them get over this hump. 
  • Don’t make a big deal out of leaving or coming back. You don’t want to inadvertently teach your dog that they need to be amped up about you leaving. 
  • Try giving your dog a Kong with peanut butter in it when you leave. This will distract them from the moment of your departure, and will also give them a reward for staying home without you. 

With just a little bit of perseverance, your pup will soon learn that alone time isn’t a bad thing and can even be fun. 

dog on a walkHow to Help Pets with Separation Anxiety

If your pup is already exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, you might want to talk to a dog trainer about the best way to work with your particular pup. In general, your goal should be to teach your dog that good things can happen when you leave. Here are a few things you can do on your own to treat minor separation anxiety:

  • Make sure to give your dog a long walk before leaving to help get their energy out. 
  • Change up your routine. Often, dogs will notice the lead up to you leaving and that will build up anxiety for them. For instance, if you always pick up your keys before leaving, do it at a few random points during the day so that your pooch won’t associate it with a departure. 
  • Use counter-conditioning methods to help your dog associate good things with being alone. As stated above, you can give them a Kong with peanut butter, or have a set of special toys that you only bring out when they’re left alone. 

Hopefully, these tips will soon help your anxious pup start to feel better whenever you head out. 

If you ever need help taking care of your pets, Midway Animal Hospital is here for you. Schedule an appointment online and we’ll treat your furry family members with care. 

We started at Midaway Animal Hospital in summer of 2017 after relocating here from Ohio. Our 15 year old dachshund and 7 year old corgi/beagle mix are always in the best of hands no matter what their needs are. All of the vets here are phenomenal and super knowledgeable, the entire staff and front office are always helpful and listen to any concerns and truly care for our dogs and put up with questions anytime! Truly blessed to have Midway Animal Hospital for our fur kids.

Anja M.