Separation anxiety is a condition that occurs when a dog becomes nervous or distressed when they are separated from members of the family they are overly attached to or are left alone. This condition can lead to destructive behaviour, excessive barking, soiling the house, and other unruly actions. As a pet parent, it can be nerve-wracking to see your furry friend experience separation anxiety. However, there are steps you can take to help your dog cope with the condition. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways you can help your dog manage separation anxiety.
Start with short separation periods: One of the best ways to help your dog cope with separation anxiety is to gradually get them used to being alone. Start with short separations of just a few minutes and gradually increase the amount of time you spend away from your dog. This can help your dog get used to the idea of being alone and reduce their anxiety. It’s important to remember to make your departures and arrivals as low-key as possible. Don’t make a fuss when you leave or come back, as this can reinforce your dog’s anxiety.
Create a safe space: Dogs feel safe and secure when they have a designated space to call their own. Create a safe space for your dog where they can retreat when they feel anxious. This could be a crate, a dog bed, or a specific room in your house. Make sure your dog’s safe space is comfortable and filled with familiar items, such as their favourite toys and blankets. This can help your dog feel secure and reduce their anxiety.
Provide plenty of exercises and mental stimulation: Exercise and mental stimulation are important for all dogs but especially for dogs with separation anxiety. A tired and mentally stimulated dog is more likely to be calm and relaxed when you leave the house. Take your dog for a walk before you leave or provide them with plenty of playtime. You could also consider providing your dog with puzzle toys or other mentally stimulating activities to keep them occupied.
Consider using calming products: There are a variety of calming products available that can help dogs manage their anxiety. These products include pheromone sprays, supplements, and calming collars. Talk to your veterinarian about which calming products might be right for your dog. Some products may be more effective than others, so finding the right one for your dog is important.
Use positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when it comes to training dogs. Use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog’s calm behaviour when you leave the house. For example, you could treat your dog when you leave the house and return home if they remain calm. This can help your dog associate your departure and arrival with positive experiences, which can reduce their anxiety.
Consider doggy daycare or a pet sitter: If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, you may need to consider other options, such as doggy daycare or a pet sitter. These options can provide your dog with companionship and prevent them from feeling anxious when they are alone. When choosing a doggy daycare or pet sitter, make sure you choose a reputable provider who has experience working with dogs with separation anxiety.
Seek professional help: If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, it may be necessary to seek professional help. Your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer can provide you with advice and guidance on how to manage your dog’s anxiety. In some cases, medication may be necessary to help your dog manage their anxiety. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication and monitor your dog’s progress to ensure that they are getting the help they need.
Separation anxiety can be a challenging issue for pet parents to cope with, but with patience and persistence, it can be managed. Gradual desensitization, providing interactive toys, creating a safe space, practising calming techniques, regular exercise, not making a big deal about leaving or returning, and seeking professional help are some effective ways to help your dog cope with separation anxiety. Remember that every dog is different, and what works for one may not work for another, so it may take some trial and error to find the right approach for your furry friend.
(Dr Adarsh J, Asst Techno-commercial & product manager, Drools Pet Food Pvt Ltd)