by Susan Paretts
You hate leaving your dog for the day because he’s your dedicated sidekick and snuggle buddy. It seems like nothing makes him happier than spending time with you, as the barrage of licks he gives you when you come through the door seems to indicate. Unfortunately, sometimes dogs can become too attached to their pet parents and develop attachment anxiety when they are left alone. This can lead to destructive behaviors when you aren’t around.
If you’re dealing with dog or puppy separation anxiety, you’ll probably notice that your pooch is an angel when you’re around but a barking and destructive terror when you’re not. He may even go into a panic every time you head for the door. To combat separation anxiety, you’ll need to take some steps to make your pup less anxious when you aren’t with him. With patience and training, your pup should become calmer in no time.
Canine Attachment Anxiety
According to the American Veterinary Association, canine attachment anxiety, also known as separation anxiety, affects around 20 percent of dogs. Signs of dog and puppy separation anxiety include your dog trying to prevent you from leaving the house each time you go, urinating or defecating in the house when you’re gone, destroying everything from slippers to your couch when no one is home and excessive barking when left alone. These behaviors usually come about after a major change, such as a move or the loss of a family member. If your normally relaxed pup is suddenly anxious out of the blue, visit your veterinarian to rule out any illnesses or other medical causes.
How to Calm Down a Dog with Separation Anxiety
If your dog is dealing with separation anxiety, there are a few simple things you can do. Before you leave, give your dog a puzzle toy filled with his favorite treat, like peanut butter, cream cheese, kibble or a frozen chunk of wet dog food. This will help distract your dog in the moment so that you can leave without your departure raising any alarms.
It may be hard to resist, but try not to make a fuss over your dog when you leave or come home because this can reinforce his behavior.
While you’re away, leave a few toys around to keep your dog occupied so he won’t gnaw on your slippers. You’ll also want to leave an unwashed shirt or two around that you’ve recently worn because research shows that your scent is calming to your dog. In addition, have a dog walker make a stop by your home if your pup is having accidents. This gives him a chance to have a bathroom break and some exercise, making him less restless and less likely to go potty within the home.
How to Stop a Dog Barking When Left Alone
A barking dog can be disturbing to your neighbors, especially if your pooch is barking nonstop when you’re away. To train your dog not to do this, try leaving for short amounts of time and rewarding your dog with a treat if he or she doesn’t bark when left alone. Gradually increase the time you leave your dog alone before a treat is given. If your dog’s nervous behavior continues, the ASPCA recommends working with a certified applied animal behaviorist or pet psychologist.
You can also try a few natural alternatives to calm a dog dealing with canine attachment anxiety. One is to try using synthetic dog pheromone diffusers throughout your home that release an odor that humans can’t smell but your dog can. The scent has a calming effect on your canine companion. You can also try giving your dog some calming chews from Heelr before your leave for the day. Heelr products contain CBD, which may help your pet stay content during your separation. Of course, be sure to consult with your veterinarian before giving any CBD products to your pooch.
Separation anxiety can be frustrating for pet parents to deal with, but with behavioral training and other natural remedies, your dog should slowly become less restless when you’re away. Also, remember to keep your dog exercised with at least one to two walks each day to help burn off extra energy and prevent anxious behavior.
If you’re gone for extended periods of time during the day, consider alternatives like doggie daycare for your pup to keep your dog from becoming nervous or restless. Most importantly, work with your veterinarian to ensure that nothing else is going on with your dog like a health issue and, in serious cases of separation anxiety, if anti-anxiety medications might be needed.
Susan Paretts is a pet expert and author whose work has been published in a variety of pet-related publications, including the American Kennel Club, Cuteness, World of Wag, The Noseprint, The Nest Pets, The Daily Puppy, Mom.com and GoFetch. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with an MFA in writing and lives with her husband and her adorable furry family members.