Do you struggle to leave your dog home alone without coming back to some sort of mess in the house? Barking, howling, chewing up furniture, and even trying to escape the house are all common occurrences for many pet parents when their dog is left alone. While your first instinct may be to take your dog to behavior classes, your furry friend may actually be acting out because they’re experiencing separation anxiety.
After spending the past year cooped up indoors with your pup, they’re bound to experience separation anxiety now that you’re leaving the house again. Escape attempts and disruptive behavior aren’t just annoying to the owner, they can also be potentially dangerous to the dog.
Think your dog may suffer from separation anxiety? Read on to learn the telltale signs of anxiety and what you can do to help alleviate their stress.
Dogs show signs of separation anxiety in several ways. Some dogs display distress behaviors right when they realize their owner is leaving while others don’t act out until after their owner has left. No matter how or when they act out, there are a few telltale signs that your dog is struggling with separation anxiety.
Excessive Barking & Howling
Dogs experiencing separation anxiety will often bark and howl persistently when left without their owner. This barking is different from regular barking — it’s continual and isn’t triggered by sudden sounds or movement outside the house. If your dog barks continuously at nothing in particular when left alone, they likely are anxious to be without you.
Destruction and Chewing
A very common habit that dogs can get into when left alone is chewing on anything they can get their paws on — from shoes to furniture. If your dog’s destructive behavior is caused by separation anxiety, they will only chew up items when you’re away from them. This is especially dangerous because they could break a tooth or swallow something toxic to them.
When left alone, some dogs pace in a certain pattern until their owner returns. Any repetitive pattern is concerning, but if it’s caused by separation anxiety it will only happen when you’re away from your pup. A good way to keep an eye on them while you’re away is to set up a camera inside the house to look for warning signs.
Accidents While Unsupervised
Accidents can be pretty typical for some dogs, but if your dog is only having accidents while you’re away it’s likely caused by separation anxiety.
There’s no concrete evidence to support the cause of separation anxiety, but it’s most common in rescue dogs that have been rehomed or abandoned. The following is a list of situations that are commonly associated with the development of separation anxiety.
Change of Surroundings
Even if they stay with their owner, moving into a new residence can trigger separation anxiety because they’re in an unfamiliar setting.
Change of Owners
The most common cause of separation anxiety is a change of owner — whether it’s an owner surrender to a shelter or simply an exchange without a shelter involved. From then on out, the dog may be afraid they will lose their owner again. On top of that, a slight change in family members could also cause distress. A sudden absence of a family member due to death or moving away could trigger the anxiety.
Change in Schedule
A sudden schedule change can also stress a dog out and trigger separation anxiety. This typically only happens when the schedule involves the dog being home alone for an extended period that they aren’t used to. This is more common now than ever as everyone heads back to the office after working from home for the past year.
The solution for separation anxiety depends on the severity of the anxiety. For more extreme cases, we recommend hiring a professional behavioral specialist. Below are a few tips for mild to moderate cases.
Leave a Piece of Clothing That Smells Like You
With 2 billion olfactory receptors, dogs’ strongest sense is smell. Your scent may even have a calming effect on your dog. Try leaving a piece of clothing that was recently worn for your pup to snuggle up in while you’re gone.
Enforce a Word That Signals You’ll Be Back
Give your dog a sense of reassurance by establishing a word or action that signals to your dog that you’ll be back. Start out by performing the action every day when you leave and eventually your dog will catch on to the cue.
Give Your Dog a Calming Treat
Oftentimes, all your dog needs is a simple calming supplement to soothe their stress. Try giving your furry friend a daily hemp powder supplement to alleviate stress and restlessness. On top of that, hemp powder also improves cardiovascular function, boosts a healthy immune response, and helps maintain shiny coats and healthy skin!
Don’t Make a Big Deal Out of Arrivals and Departures
Dogs are easily excited and tend to pick up on your energy. If you seem worried when you leave and overly excited when you arrive back home, your dog will pick up on those cues. Instead, try not to make a big deal out of arrivals and departures so that your dog doesn’t either. We know it’s tough, but it’s best to ignore your dog for the first few minutes after you arrive home and then calmly pet them.
Separation Anxiety is tough on pets and their owners, but these tips could potentially help your dog overcome their restlessness. It will take time for them to unlearn their panic response, but start by combining a calming treat with these tactics to get a head start on resolving their issues.
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