The bond between pooch and pooch parent is undeniably strong. You love that furry being more than life itself. You would do almost anything for them. Except, of course, stay at home 24/7, 365 days a year. More’s the pity, because here’s the thing: as much as you love Fido, Fido’s love for you is more than double. You are their everything. Little wonder, then, that separation anxiety in dogs is so common.
If your dog is amongst this percentage, engulfed with fear and accompanying destructive behaviors every time they’re left alone, rest assured that there are some excellent solutions to set both you and your dog on the path to stress-free alone time.
Understanding Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The first step is to recognize that separation anxiety in dogs is more than just a case of them missing you. It’s an intense fear and stress response triggered by your absence.
Dogs with separation anxiety might exhibit behaviors like:
- excessive barking,
- destructive chewing,
- house soiling, and even
- attempts to escape.
Addressing these symptoms, and the underlying cause, requires a combination of patience, understanding, and targeted techniques like the following:
1. Introduce Gradual Departures and Returns
Practice leaving and returning home in short intervals – without making a big fuss. This helps teach your dog that your absence isn’t permanent. Gradually increase the time you’re away, creating a sense of normalcy and reducing the anxiety associated with separations.
2. Practice Desensitization
Associate departure cues (like picking up keys or putting on shoes) with non-stressful situations. For example:
- Pick up your keys throughout the day without ever leaving. Jingle the keys casually, then put them down and continue with your normal activities.
- Put on your shoes indoors without leaving. Walk around the house and interact with your dog. This helps break the connection between shoes and your departure.
- Whenever you do either of the above, follow it up with positive experiences. Give your dog treats, play with them, or engage in a short training session. This conditions your dog to associate these cues with pleasant outcomes.
- Slowly increase the duration between picking up keys or wearing shoes and actually leaving.
- Maintain a calm demeanor when picking up keys or putting on shoes. Dogs can pick up on your emotions, so if you’re anxious about leaving, they might become anxious too.
3. Create a Safe Space
Designate a comfortable and secure space for your dog to stay in when you’re away. A crate or a specific room can provide a sense of protection and minimize destructive behaviors.
4. Provide Engaging Toys and Puzzles
Leave interactive toys or treat-dispensing puzzles to keep your dog mentally engaged and distracted while you’re gone.
5. Seek Professional Help
If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, seek guidance from your veterinarian. They can offer tailored strategies and techniques to address your dog’s specific needs. For example, your veterinarian could recommend a comprehensive treatment plan that involves medication, such as Reconcile® (fluoxetine hydrochloride)*, paired with behavior modification training to help develop your dog’s independence. Reconcile is an FDA-approved medication that has seen excellent results in the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.
Managing separation anxiety requires time and patience, to be sure. But with a combination of understanding, empathy, and dedicated effort, you can make a positive difference in your dog’s well-being and help them navigate the challenges of being apart from you.
*Important Safety Information
The most common adverse events from Reconcile®, in decreasing order of reported frequency, are decreased appetite, depression/lethargy, shaking/shivering/tremor, vomiting, restlessness and anxiety, seizures, aggression, diarrhea, mydriasis, vocalization, weight loss, panting, confusion, incoordination, and hypersalivation. Reconcile® chewable tablets are contraindicated for dogs with a history of seizures or when used with MAOIs.
Reconcile® chewable tablets are indicated for the treatment of canine separation anxiety in conjunction with a behavior modification plan. Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
Visit Reconcile.com to view full prescribing information.
Animal Wellness is North America’s top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.