Separation anxiety in dogs is an extremely common problem worldwide, and a major cause of dogs given up for adoption or euthanized.
Separation anxiety can occur in any breed and of any age. There are many reasons separation anxiety may occur. Lack of exercise, boredom and the stress of dealing with the separation from their owners are major contributors. These problems lead to destructive behavior, continuous barking, and unusual behavior such as chasing their tail, trying to escape the house, aggression and/or eliminating in the house.
The biggest thing to address when treating a dog with separation anxiety is to teach them to enjoy, or at least be able to tolerate being left alone. You can achieve this through positive and enjoyable activities before leaving them alone.
Toys can be a great tool and distraction for dogs experiencing separation anxiety. Kong’s and other treat filled toys are great, along with dog bones that will ensure to keep them happy and entertained whilst you are away. Wearing them out before leaving the house can also be effective. Playing with them and/or taking them for a walk for 20-30 minutes in the morning may also help reduce their anxiety.
Keeping your pets relaxed before leaving the house is important, trying not to make a big fuss before departing or when arriving back home. It can be challenging for owners not to do this when you have such happy faces greet you at the door, but your overjoyed dog can be an indication of how anxiously they have been awaiting your return. When arriving home, it is best to wait until your pet settles down before acknowledging them, so as to not reinforce their needy behavior.
Anxiety in dogs can also be due to other causes, such as a medical issue. If there are any concerns, it is best to contact a veterinarian or behaviorist for further diagnosis and treatment options.