One of the most common problems for pet parents is dealing with a dog that suffers from separation anxiety. Some dogs are destructive when left alone and others bark, howl, urinate, defecate, chew, and some even try to escape the house or dog kennel that they are left in. Separation anxiety can occur anytime that the dog is separated from her caregivers.
Dogs with anxiety have to be treated extremely carefully, and need more specific care than dogs who do not have a problem with being left alone.
Dogs can have anxiety while separated from their owners. It can be triggered by their surroundings or they may have anxiety just because of the way they were treated previously, which can apply if your dog is a rescue.
No matter what the reason for the separation anxiety in your dog, you need to treat the issue or you may end up with a major problem on your hands.
Untreated cases of separation anxiety may lead to behaviors getting worse. Dogs may begin to destroy more than just a few household items, and escape attempts could turn into broken windows or doors and a severely injured dog.
If the anxiety is severe you should talk to your veterinarian about a treatment plan before trying anything on your own.
If the symptoms are mild, there are numerous over the counter remedies you can try, dog clothing that can be worn to make your pet more comfortable, and even technology that can allow you to talk to and check on your pooch throughout the day.
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How I Help My Dog Deal With Separation Anxiety
Our dog's anxiety isn't severe, but it's enough that I know she's not comfortable at home while we're gone to work. We've tried numerous different products with her, and I've found a few things that work very well.
The first thing you need to do to help your dog deal with her anxiety is to form a consistent routine when you leave the house.
If you just pick up your things and head out the door, your dog doesn't have time to adjust to the thought of you leaving. On top of our routine, I also use some common dog products that help to calm my dog before we leave the house and keep her calm until we return.
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Burt's Bees for Dogs calming spray
I have used Burt's Bees for Dogs Calming Spray ever since I adopted my dog when she was two months old. She was a rescue from a puppy mill, so she has anxiety through the roof on a good day. This product contains lavender and green tea extract, which helps to create a calming smell.
As per the instructions, you simply spray the product all over your dog. Spray a nice layer from the back of her ears, all the way down to the tip of her tail. You can either rub the spray into her fur a little bit, or give her a quick brush to spread the product evenly throughout her coat.
You can also spray this product onto your dog's toys, bedding, inside her crate, or on her favorite blanket. This helps to create a calmer, soothing environment for your dog while you're away, or if you'd just like her to calm down while you're home.
There are other tools as well to help calm down dogs and help them deal with separation anxiety. Here are a few suggestions:
Dog toys are key for dealing with separation anxiety
If your dog likes to chew, or gets bored and takes her anxiety out on your furniture or other possessions in your home, it's time to hit the pet store. For this trip, it's best to let your dog pick out her own toys.
Yes, she may want them all, but allow her to pick out a couple of toys by herself. You'll know what she wants when she goes up to them, and tries to take them off the rack or the shelves.
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Having an atmosphere full of toys will help to calm your dog down. Anxiety also stems from boredom in dogs, not just the fact that they think you're never going to return. Therefore, create a busy, fun environment for your pet. As long as your dog is kept busy throughout the day, you won't come home to disasters.
Treat dispensing toys can be a great way to cure boredom. Most of us are familiar with the traditional KONG-like dog toys that can be filled with peanut butter, wet dog food, or some other squishy treat. Have you ever thought about freezing them overnight?
When the treat is frozen it takes longer for your dog to get it out of the toy. This prolongs the life of the treat and keeps your dog busy twice as long. You can also purchase puzzle toys that dispense treats once your dog has figured out how to manipulate them.
Puppy toys are great for entertaining your dog, but if she is clever, it won't take her long to remember the pattern and she'll be able to crack these treats open in no time. If you're interested in purchasing puzzle toys, I would suggest buying three or four different toys and giving a different one to your dog each day in no particular order. This will make it harder for her to remember the patterns.
EXPERT INTERVIEW: How to Deal With Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Puppy Pee Pads for accidents
If you have a dog who makes a mess when they are left alone and their anxiety boils over, try using some doggy pee pads. We've done some research on the best puppy pee pads to pick those that work.
Furthermore, we also have a great video comparing top puppy training pads and how well they work in soaking up your pet's urine and containing smell (see the video below).
To save you some time, here's a list of affordable and good toilet training pee pads that are reasonably cheap. But to save even more money, you can create them yourself: use a large piece of plastic, or a section of a tarp, and place layers of newspaper over it – that's it, you're done. It may not be bulletproof, but it'll do the job.
Top 5 best selling dog training pee pads from Amazon:
2. Four Paws Wee-Wee Puppy Housebreaking Pads
3. AmazonBasics Pet Training and Puppy Pads
4. Hartz Home Protection Unscented Dogs Pads
5. Chairlin Multi-Purpose Boot Mat & Tray
*The above top 5 picks for best dog training pee pads are based on Amazon’s Best Seller rankings [August 2015].
Before you go to work, watch where your dog does her business. Once she has peed, use a piece of a rag and wipe it over the spot. Yes, this can be gross, but worth it in the end.
When you come back in, drag that rag over the newspaper, or the pee pads, and your dog should go there the rest of the day while you're away.
However, don't be surprised if she doesn't get this right away. With a little training she will pick it up in no time. This helps ease your dog's anxiety, because there are a lot of dogs who get nervous and cannot control their bladder during the day when they're alone.
In turn, this causes them to get more anxious, now that they've made a mess for you to come home to.
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Use up your dog's energy before leaving
There are also some activities that you can do with your dog before you leave the house that may help her adjust while you're gone. Burning off some of your pet's excess energy will help keep her calm and hopefully she will rest while you're gone instead of being destructive.
Before you leave, even if you're going to be gone barely an hour, take your dog for a walk or a brisk jog. She will only be able to act out if there's energy to act out with. If you don't have time for a walk, play with her for about half an hour. Grab her favorite toy, throw it around, or even play tug of war with her; whatever she likes to do.
Once your pet's energy is nearly gone, that's a good time to go, even if you're leaving early. Leaving your dog in a restful, quiet state is always the best option when leaving her home alone.
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No touching or talking before you leave
If your dog is a terror to the neighborhood when you are not home, because of separation anxiety, then ensure that you make your leave look like nothing special.
Don't touch or talk to your dog before you leave, and ensure that you do not make eye contact with her.
I do this with my dog whenever I go anywhere, because it shows her that I'm coming back, that leaving isn't a big deal, and that she will be fine on her own.
If your dog is known to completely freak out when you leave, do a couple of test runs before you have to go.
For example, if you are going to be gone for more than an hour or so, do not look your dog in the eye for at least half an hour before you leave, and do a test run. Leave the house or the apartment, wait five minutes, and come back in. This shows her that every time you leave, you will come back.
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Leave the area a couple of times a day
If you work from home like I do, or are constantly around your dog, this is where anxiety and separation anxiety can stem from.
To stop this, go out by yourself a couple of times a day. Go for a walk alone, or make some errands up for yourself. If someone is constantly around your dog, especially you as the alpha, its going to create a problem when you leave.
Your dog's anxiety can be disruptive to your home, your neighbors, and especially to her. Remember to be patient with your dog, because teaching her to control her anxiety, and her bladder if that's one of the problems associated with the anxiety, is just like teaching her a new trick.
Each dog is different and they'll respond to calming products and behavioral training in different ways. These are the most popular options that work with a majority of dogs suffering with mild separation anxiety. Remember that the first trick you try may not work, but one of them will if you stick with it.
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