Table of Contents
- What causes separation anxiety among dogs?
- Real vs. simulated separation anxiety
- How to calm down a dog with separation anxiety
- 1. Drain the extra energy
- 2. Don’t make a big fuss about leaving
- 3. Keep a sound on
- 4. Diffuse a calming scent
- 5. Desensitize your dog to being alone
- 6. Make your schedule unpredictable
- 7. Leave some comfort items
- Tips to prevent separation anxiety on your dog
- What if all of these didn’t work?
Going home to a chewed sofa, poop everywhere, and an overly excited dog – these are tell-tale signs of separation anxiety. It’s one of the biggest problems of many dog owners who have to leave their dogs at home alone. This behavior can become even more destructive and stressful for your pet. So for this post, I will share some tips on how to calm down a dog with separation anxiety. This will help improve your dog’s behavior and reduce any untoward incidents while you’re away.
What causes separation anxiety among dogs?
Various triggers can cause separation anxiety among canines. It usually builds up over time until it becomes a severe problem. If your dog suddenly exhibits signs of separation anxiety, you must consider these potential triggers:
- Sudden changes at home. It’s possible that someone passed away, you moved to a new house, or the family had a drastic change in schedule. All of these will take its toll on your dog, which can result in separation anxiety.
- Being very social. If your dog is used to having people around all the time, it will experience separation anxiety when left alone for long.
- Being rehomed. Dogs that are rehomed are highly prone to separation anxiety. They always fear that their owners will abandon them again. Also, dogs that are left in shelters for too long are at risk of this problem.
Real vs. simulated separation anxiety
Dog behavior is tricky, and you’ll be surprised that even dogs can fake things. There’s the so-called simulated separation anxiety. This happens partly because the dog owner rewards the symptoms the dog shows. So even if the pooch isn’t nervous or anxious, it will repeat the symptoms to gain its owner’s attention.
No matter how you try to calm your dog down, it will appear to have lingering separation anxiety. What you need here is training to solve the problem permanently.
So how can you tell if your dog is just faking it? It can be difficult, but you can ask the help of a pet trainer to know what the real deal with your pet is. Besides, both need attention and solution so your dog will stop exhibiting the negative behavior.
How to calm down a dog with separation anxiety
Dogs with separation anxiety can be destructive. Aside from that, these dogs will be highly stressed, so they are also at risk of developing other behavioral problems. To help calm your dog down, I recommend the following tips:
1. Drain the extra energy
Before you go to work, take your dog to a long walk around the neighborhood. This will drain the pup’s extra energy, and it will not have the zest to rip things and exhibit signs of separation anxiety. By the time you walk out of the door, your dog is sound asleep or relaxing on the couch.
You can also play mental games with your dog to distract it from nervous thoughts. It’s an effective release, so your dog will become calmer and more laidback once you need to leave.
Start your dog’s day busy, so it will be tired and sleepy before you leave. After a long walk or playtime, reward your calm dog with food. After that, your pooch is ready to take another snooze.
2. Don’t make a big fuss about leaving
One big mistake dog owners make is giving their dog goodbye hugs and kisses at the door. This is a no-no. By doing so, you’re making your dog realize that being nervous is tolerated and rewarded. After showering them with love, you’ll suddenly go away and leave them alone. That’s a recipe for separation anxiety.
You should practice no eye contact, no-touch, and no-touch policy. Once your dog is eating or sleeping, exit quietly. There’s no need for hugs and kisses that will only trigger your dog’s nervousness.
3. Keep a sound on
Another trick that really works for my dog is when I leave a sound playing in the background. I usually play podcasts, so it seems like there are people around. The TV also works, too, but that might not be practical for some dog owners.
You can experiment with different sounds to find which one really calms your dog. Some canines settle on nature sounds, classical music, and more.
4. Diffuse a calming scent
A great pair to the calming sound is a calming scent. The safest and highly recommended is lavender. It will help your dog mellow down, but you still have to pair it with the other methods I discussed here. You just can’t expect your dog to calm down after sniffing your fancy lavender oil suddenly.
Before you start diffusing your favorite oils, I want to emphasize that not all essential oils are safe for pets. The likes of peppermint, pine, tea tree, wintergreen, pennyroyal, cinnamon, and citrus oils are toxic to canines. Before you use any oil for diffusing, I suggest consulting the vet for your dog’s safety.
You can also ask for a vet’s prescription for calming medicines or sedatives that will help calm the nerves of your pooch.
5. Desensitize your dog to being alone
Training is a permanent solution to separation anxiety. You must desensitize your dog to being left alone. If you foresee that your family will have a change of schedule, prepare your dog ahead.
Start by leaving your dog in short periods. Over time, increase the duration until your dog acclimates to being left alone. This is a process that you should take slowly to ensure that your dog won’t develop separation anxiety.
6. Make your schedule unpredictable
One trick you can do is to shuffle your preparation for work. If you use to pick up your keys before leaving, do so earlier. You should also vary the order of your routines so your dog will not predict your next move. This way, you can slip out of the door, and your dog won’t notice.
It will also help if you say goodbye to your dog early. Once you wake up, shower your dog with kisses, hugs, and pets. After that, move on and prepare for work. You can also vary the ‘affection schedule’ so your dog won’t predict when you will leave. This will prevent your dog from developing familiarity with your routine.
7. Leave some comfort items
Lastly, leave some comfort items to your dog. Some of these are your dog’s toys that will keep it busy during the day. You can also leave your used shirt around so your dog can still smell your presence. This will help the pooch calm down, especially if you have to leave him for long hours.
Interactive toys are good options, too. It will stimulate your dog’s brain while keeping its mind away from destroying things and other separation anxiety symptoms.
Tips to prevent separation anxiety on your dog
- Train as early as possible. To prevent any behavioral problem, you should train your dog the moment you brought it home. This is essential in raising a well-rounded dog. By training, you can dampen any negative predisposition of your pet. Crate training is also necessary, so you can give your dog a safe den that will help it calm down.
- Have someone check on your dog. It’s not a good idea to leave your dog alone for long. Even the most trained doggo will get bored and become cranky. I recommend asking someone to check on your dog at least once if you’re going to be gone for more than 8 hours.
- Make being alone fun. You can make alone time fun for your dog so that it won’t suffer from separation anxiety. For example, you will only give them their favorite toy once you’re leaving. These exclusive activities will encourage your dog to look forward to being alone.
- Get a dog camera. Thanks to technology, you can now check on your dog and talk to it even if you’re at work. Dog cameras are equipped with two-way audio and high-definition cams that send a live feed to your phone. Some are even fitted with toys like treat dispensers and lasers. This is a great tool to distract your dog from destructive habits due to separation anxiety.
What if all of these didn’t work?
Some severe separation anxiety cases can’t be fixed by the tips I mentioned above. In this case, I suggest enlisting the help of a pet trainer. This person will identify what triggers your dog’s separation anxiety and what can be done about it. Some dogs just happen to need a more holistic approach to recover from separation anxiety.
In this video, dog expert Cesar Millan tells us more about separation anxiety among dogs and what to do about it:
Knowing how to calm down a dog with separation anxiety is important so that the behavior won’t progress. It will also save you from expensive damages in your home. Above all, it will prevent chronic stress on your dog.
Do you have more tips that you want to add here? Drop your comments below!