Separation Anxiety Solutions For Your Dog
Separation Anxiety is a Big Problem that some Dog Owners face everyday. Destructive chewing and destroying of household furniture may even push a dog owner to surrender their dog to a shelter because the cost is too great.
My Dogs, Ardi (German Shepherd) and Reno (Miniature Dachshund), had Really Bad Separation Anxiety when my husband and I would leave for work. Coming home to a mess after work became very stressful.
We have experienced the stress of Separation Anxiety in our dogs. We found 10 Real Solutions For Dog Separation Anxiety including Symptoms, Prone Dog Breeds, and Treatment Tips that have helped us a lot and we want to share them with you.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation Anxiety is a condition that causes dogs to freak out when they think their owner has left them alone.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
There are many theories out there, but there really is no ‘one’ cause for Separation Anxiety. I do believe that it does have a higher chance of occurring if the dog experienced a traumatic event in their past. Other theories include that it ‘could’ happen if they were weaned away from their mother too early or that their breed is more prone to the disorder.
Dogs are pack animals. They desired to be with their ‘pack’, which includes their owner. When they are left alone, some dogs panic and become destructive.
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
What are Signs of Anxiety in Dogs?
Barking and Whining
Peeing and Pooping indoors
Chewing and Destroying
Pacing Back and Forth
Note: If you have a puppy under the age of 5 months old, they may exhibit similar symptoms: barking, whining, chewing, and going potty indoors. This isn’t necessarily Separation Anxiety, this is normal puppy behavior.
So, as far as the list of Symptoms above goes, my dogs had all of them! Our Shepherd would bark, drool, get out of his kennel, chew the door knobs, door frames, and stairs. (See Pictures Below) We had a gorilla tough metal dog kennel for my Shepherd, which he eventually warped enough to fit through a small hole.
Reno, the dachshund, would bark, whine, chew the door of his kennel, poo inside his kennel and spread it all over the place. It was awful!
Our basement staircase chewed up by Artemus (Ardi). Little Beagle, Bastian puppy, is sitting at the top of the stairs.
We were Ardi’s third home. When we adopted him, he had two previous owners who didn’t want him anymore. After the major house destroying incident, my husband was determined to give him up. I reminded him that I Never give up on my dogs, ever! I knew there had to be solutions out there to help us.
While we were home, Ardi was the most loving dog. He was always kind and gentle to our family, friends, and other dogs. He was literally a big hug-gable teddy bear. He deserved our patience and love to get through this big challenge we were all facing.
How Do You Help A Dog with Separation Anxiety?
It can be mentally and physically stressful for your dog to feel cool and calm when you leave the house. Separation Anxiety Training is needed to help your dog learn that you will be back and he doesn’t need to worry or destroy anything in the house while you are away.
Remember, dogs desire to be around the ones they love and don’t want to be left alone. Dogs who have separation anxiety will act out in the house because of their instinct, not because of behavioral issues. Punishing them for this act may not do any good.
Training Tip: If your dog has separation anxiety, most of the destruction will occur in the first 30 minutes of your departure.
Tips for Treating Dog Separation Anxiety:
1. Separation Anxiety Training
Start by leaving your dog in the kennel or the house alone for 5 minutes. Return with a small treat and reward with praise. This lets your dog know that when you leave, you will come back. Increase their alone time gradually and repeat the same steps. Using positive reinforcement will help lower their anxiety when you leave.
2. Avoid Triggers:
Leaving for the Day: To avoid triggering a separation anxiety episode, do not have direct interaction or make eye contact with your dog right before you leave. Certain triggers like getting your keys out, hugging, or saying “Good-bye” can set them off.
Dogs Reflect your behavior and will start to get upset if you indicate that you are leaving for the day. Give your dog a peanut butter filled Kong toy or a scoop of dog food for breakfast before you leave to help distract them.
Coming Home: Again, avoid any direct excited interaction with the dog right when you arrive home at least for 3-5 minutes. Then, let your dog outside to go potty without making a big fuss. Make it a normal, calm routine when letting him outside.
If your dog has potty accidents in the kennel or the house, make sure to take them on a 20-minute walk before you leave for the day. They will usually empty themselves on the walk and last longer in the house without an accident. The act of walking outside is a stress reliever and anti-depressant for you and your dog. It is a healthy habit to do on a daily basis.
Whether I was going to work or going to the Amusement park for the day with my kids, Reno would have no accidents if I walked him before leaving for my excursion.
4. Keeping Occupied
Interactive dog toys or puzzles can help your dog stay mentally stimulated so you don’t have to worry about them getting bored and destructive while you are gone. Also consider giving your dog some food or a frozen peanut butter Kong Toy Treat before you leave.
I found some great Doggie IQ Puzzles, Boredom Buster Activity Mats, Interactive Tech Dog Toys, and chew toys in our Dog Gift Post. These toys will help keep your pup occupied while you are away.
Tip: If you catch your dog in the act of destroying something in the home, don’t go back inside your house! This will reinforce this behavior and they will continue to destroy something to get you to come back home.
5. Calm Environment
Leave a tv, radio, or a fan on before you leave the house to help your dog listen to familiar sounds while you are gone. Creating a Calm environment can be a big help when it comes to keeping an anxious dog relaxed. Check out 10 Tips for Living with a Nervous Dog.
6. Hire a Dog Sitter or Dog Walker
Hired Help: If you work full-time or are unable to let your dog out during the day, get some Help. You can ask your friendly “stay at home mom” or retired neighbor if they want to earn some extra money for letting your dog out.
Dog Walkers: You can search on google for some local dog walkers in your area. I have used the Rover.com app to look up local caregivers to let my dog out when I’m gone for the day or evening. It comes with lots of reviews and is super easy to use.
Doggie Daycare: Some dog owners take their dogs to doggie daycare during work hours. Dogs can play, socialize with other dogs, and exercise while you are at work.
Hiring some help during the day while you are away can help lower your dog’s anxiety and give you peace of mind.
7. Designated Dog Area
If your dogs aren’t kenneled while you are away, the best thing to do is find a way to secure your dog in a safe location away from your household items that are getting destroyed. Lock up or put away your garbage cans and use some strong dog gates.
My dogs were both kenneled inside for a short time, but kept getting out and making messes. We used the toughest dog kennels that existed! So, we had to come up with another idea.
We lived in the country at the time and didn’t have any dog walker or doggie daycare options nearby. So, we built an indoor / outdoor kennel. We secured 3 6×8 closed fence panels from Home Depot for the outside kennel portion and put it up against a door to the back of our garage. We added a doggie door to the garage door, which led to a couple of large dog kennels put together inside.
The dogs found a way to move the inside dog kennels to get out and wreak havoc in the garage, so we had to use car tires to weight the kennels against the wall. Then, we had it!
The garage was heated so the dogs could stay warm and dry and still go outside to play or go potty. We had lots of Tough Rubber Jolly Balls and Dog Houses they could play with in the outside portion of the kennel.
8. Natural Antidotes
You can use natural methods to calm anxiety too. Check out your local pet store for lavender based treats or diffusers that will release a calming lavender scent in the air to help keep your dog feeling safe and calm.
Does CBD Help Dogs with Separation Anxiety?
9. Consult a Professional
For some cases of separation anxiety, it is necessary to consult a Professional Dog Behaviorist for help. They can recommend additional training methods that you can continue to use when anxiety attacks occur or reoccur going forward.
10. Consult a Vet
For more severe cases of separation anxiety, consult your vet for some extra help. They may recommend some medications that can help keep your dog calm.
What Dog Breeds Are Affected by Separation Anxiety?
Some dog breeds suffer from nervous and anxiety issues more than others. You would think that the “working” types of dogs would be most affected since they have the urge to constantly be on the job, but that isn’t the case.
The following breeds are known to be more prone to Separation Anxiety: German Shepherd, German Shorthaired Pointers, Havanese, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Toy Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Border Collies, Greyhounds, Vizslas, Labs, Bichon Frises, Australian Shepherds, and Jack Russell Terriers.
Is There a Cure For Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
After using several of the Separation Anxiety Treatment methods, Ardi and Reno’s anxiety levels reduced and they were kept safe in our home. We didn’t have to worry about them randomly escaping and creating large messes to greet us when we arrived home from work.
I don’t believe that Separation Anxiety can really be “cured”, more like controlled or contained using the treatment methods above. I believe that you need to keep working with your dog to keep them calm and comfortable.
My husband and I are Dog People. Giving up on our dogs just wasn’t an option. It can be very frustrating and stressful to go through Separation Anxiety with a dog, but keep trying, you will find ways to help you through it.
Ardi was only with us for 7 years before he passed away from Cancer. Reno was with us for 14 long, but too short, years. They gave us so much love and so many fond memories, which made it all worth it.