Preventing and Managing Separation Anxiety in Dogs
It may be impossible to know if your pup is going to develop separation anxiety, but being proactive is one of the best ways to get a handle on separation anxiety before it gets out of control. Even if your dog already struggles with separation anxiety, it’s never too late to start developing a routine and changing behaviors to make being apart a little bit easier.
Photo by JC Gellidon
Is separation anxiety preventable?
Some dogs are predisposed to developing anxiety because of their personalities, genetics, or past experiences. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a hopeless situation! Separation anxiety can be managed and even prevented if some simple steps are put into place early on.
How do you prevent separation anxiety in dogs?
- Don’t get caught up in the drama: One of the easiest things paw-rents can do is to not play into their dogs’ fears. When you leave -- whether it’s for a trip to the store or for a weeklong vacation -- remain as calm as possible. Avoid dramatic goodbyes as this will only exacerbate your pup’s anxiety. Leave as you would any day of the week, without the teary farewells. Similarly, don’t greet your dog with exaggerated excitement. That doesn’t mean you can’t be happy about seeing your dog, but hold off on focused attention until after setting down your things, putting down the groceries, or changing into comfy clothes.
- Schedule walks and/or play time: Like human kids, an enthusiastic play sesh will help your dog release energy and calm down naturally. Also, since dogs are creatures of habit, regularly taking your fur baby out for a walk before you leave helps them mentally prepare for your absence and learn that it is simply part of their daily routine instead of a sudden and scary change.
- Make “me-time” fun: Make being alone an exciting prospect, instead of a scary one. Offer snacks and toys that your pup enjoys as a “treat” for being a good doggie while you’re gone. Alternatively, you can offer an interactive toy filled with their usual faves. If your dog already struggles with separation anxiety, use interactive toys with a treat that has naturally calming ingredients.
- Provide all necessities: In addition to all their usual goodies like their favorite treats and toys, your fur baby should also have access to an indoor dog potty and preferred resting spaces. Keeping dogs entertained while the humans are away is essential, but it’s equally important that they can access the things that give them comfort and a sense of routine. Dogs are habitual creatures, and not being able to take naps in their usual spots or use the dog bathroom at certain times can cause anxiety. If your pooch is accustomed to going potty outdoors, a real bark pee pad can help them get adjusted to going potty indoors.
While separation anxiety can feel like a never-ending cycle, there are ways to help reduce its impact. It can be a slow but rewarding process that will result in brighter days for both you and your dog!