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5 Ways to Help Dogs with Separation Anxiety: Expert Discussion

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By Tegan Reddy
Davor Štefanović - Editor for DailyTails
Edited by Davor Štefanović

Published May 31, 2023.

A calm dog in front of  a comfortable crate, embodying effective anxiety management

Separation anxiety in dogs, often associated with destructive behaviors and bad habits, is a more intricate issue than it initially appears. As highlighted in a Scientific Report article, a dog may experience panic attacks and manifest undesired behavior when separated from its owner. This could lead to a damaged house, incessant barking that upsets the neighbors, or a distressed pet.

Starting from when your dog is a puppy or when you first acquire your dog, addressing separation anxiety is vital to establish a routine. While it may not have an instant remedy, with patience and perseverance, you can significantly reduce its effects.

5 Ways to Help Your Dog with Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in dogs can manifest in numerous ways, including excessive barking, destructive chewing, property damage, pacing, escape attempts, shivering, and accidents in the house. The condition can also manifest as depression or despondency in your dog. Here are some effective strategies to help your dog cope with separation anxiety.

  • Crate training
  • Exercise
  • Independence Training
  • Music
  • Medication

1. Crate Training

Crate training offers a safe personal haven for your dog. Ensure you equip this space with your dog's bed, a blanket, favorite toys, and water/food bowls. Make this their "happy place" by using positive reinforcement techniques when introducing the crate. Keep in mind that dogs should not stay in a crate for longer than 4 hours without breaks. For extended periods, consider alternatives like doggy daycare or hiring a dog walker. Also, it's essential to give your dog a walk and toilet break before leaving to prevent accidents. For some dogs, crate training may not be suitable as it could trigger stress. In such cases, consider a larger space or pair crate training with a prescribed sedative.

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2. Exercise

A dog running with owner in a field

Exercise can significantly help your dog cope with nervous energy. A well-exercised dog is generally more relaxed and less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Remember, the appropriate amount of exercise depends on the breed of your dog. Ensure your dog gets a good walk, run, and playtime before you leave the house. This can help them feel tired and well stimulated.

3. Independence Training

Independence training requires gradually leaving your dog alone to adjust to your absence. Start with short periods and gradually increase the duration. Key to this process is to avoid making a fuss when leaving or returning home. Try to say your goodbyes 15 minutes before leaving and wait for about 5 minutes after returning home before greeting your dog. This helps them realize that your coming and going are not major events.

Did You Know?

Dogs are highly sensitive to their owner's emotions. Try to stay calm and positive during departures and arrivals to help your dog feel secure.

4. Music

Background music can mask triggering outside noises and create a calm environment for your dog. Classical music is typically a good choice, with its gentle rhythms and soothing melodies. Be sure to avoid heavy, fast, or loud music. Music with a slow, steady pulse can help stabilize your dog's heartbeat and calm their nerves.

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5. Medication

In the early stages of separation anxiety, a natural supplement like Valerian root extract could help ease your dog's nervous energy. Always consult with a veterinarian before introducing any kind of medication or supplement, even natural ones. For more severe cases, a veterinarian might recommend stronger medications like Clomicalm or Fluoxetine (Prozac).

PRO TIP: Diet can affect your dog's mood. Talk to your vet about the best food options for a dog with separation anxiety.

Overcoming Separation Anxiety With Your Dog

While treating dog separation anxiety may not have a quick fix, consistently applying these strategies can substantially help your dog cope with the condition. As pet owners, we strive to provide the best care for our pets without breaking the bank.

Embrace pet insurance, for example, offers a wellness rewards program that covers routine care and other procedures. If you have multiple pets, you may also qualify for additional discounts. Remember, professional help is crucial when dealing with severe anxiety. Don't hesitate to seek assistance from a veterinarian or a dog behavior expert.

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