One of the most common problems a dog may have is separation anxiety. Separation anxiety in dogs can show up in a number of ways for a number of reasons. It is more common in older dogs coming from a shelter rather than in a puppy who has grown up with one family. No matter the case, it can be a trying time for both you and your dog. Here’s what to do if your dog has separation anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety can vary from dog to dog, but they typically happen when the owner is gone and also when the owner is preparing to leave. Symptoms can include barking and howling, urinating and defecating, pacing, coprophagia, and destructive behavior resulting in damage to exit points and/or household items and injury to the dog.
Reasons for Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Change is the main reason that a dog may suffer anxiety. Change in ownership, change in schedule, change in residence, and change in household occupants can trigger it. If someone important in the dog’s life has left, whether by a change of ownership or someone moving out, this could cause stress. Moving to a different house or suddenly being left alone for long periods of time can also be problematic.
A dog’s separation anxiety can range from mild to severe. When the severity is greater, you should recruit the help of a trained professional. Training for separation anxiety gradually adjusts a dog to be okay with being alone. Starting with getting ready to leave without leaving (if your dog expresses anxiety at that point,) to getting ready to leave and moving into another room, to leaving for longer and longer periods of time, your dog’s anxiety can be abated. Include a puzzle treat like a Kong for your dog so that your pet can have something positive to occupy his or her time. The time period for this training to work can range greatly.
If your dog gets overly excited when you come home or prepare to leave, medication can assist in making your dog more able to receive training. For many pets, a mixed, custom treatment of both training and medication is recommended. For mild anxiety, medication may be the only treatment your dog needs to readjust. However, talk to your veterinarian before getting any medication for your dog.
Other Ways to Help
Dogs need mental and physical stimulation to be content and less likely to get upset. Spending regular time exercising and hanging out with your dog, providing plenty of toys, and even getting another pet can help cheer up your canine companion.
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