A deeper dive into separation anxiety in dogs by Jacqueline Valencia
Dogs have many ways of communicating their feelings. They’ll bark at something that threatens them. Dogs will lick you when they are happy to see you. They will cry when they are hurt or shiver when they’re scared. Coming home after a long day outside and seeing your pup run up to you like you’re a superhero? That’s a great feeling. They’re grateful to see you and miss your presence terribly. However, some dogs have a hard time with their owners being away. Separation anxiety will be huge for many newer pet owners. After two years of having their pet parents at home during the pandemic, suddenly they’ll be called back to the office. Where did mom and dad go?
You might notice a change at home yourself when you get back home from work. Furniture might get chewed or trinkets destroyed. Maybe the pup will have a few accidents. If you live in an apartment, a neighbour will leave a note telling you that your dog has been barking, crying, and howling loudly all day. Even if you live in a house, your pet will miss you and while you might not hear the crying, it’s happening. Do we want our pets to be unhappy? What can you do to prevent this?
You are not alone. Many pet parents have gone through this situation and have persevered with their dog. It takes time, patience, and training for both you and your pet. Pet parents must realize that while it’s amazing to have a loyal animal friend who loves you unconditionally, that pet also needs their independence. I’m not talking about them getting a job to help pay the bills, (although wouldn’t that be cool?), it’s more about them being in control of their situations. Happiness shouldn’t come just from you. It should come from going out, playing with their toys, taking naps on their own, et cetera. You want a happy pup, even when you’re too busy at home.
I love that my pup or my cats feel compelled to follow me around the apartment sometimes. But if I’m busy or doing chores, I don’t want to step on anyone, and I don’t want to feel rushed. My dog has the cutest habit of standing by my bathroom door when it’s time for her to go out. I acknowledge her, indicate, and say, “Crate! Five minutes.” She goes to her crate and wags her tail until I’m sitting on the couch with her harness and leash. She’s tiny and I don’t want her under my feet when she’s excited.
This something you can start doing with your pet if you need some time on your own at home. Give them a few minutes in the crate or their favourite place with a treat or a fun toy (make sure the treat or toy are something you only use for this specific task). Practice “stay” or whatever command is best. Increase the time you’re away from your pet (next room, or the hallway, or outside), in small increments. Do this until you reach about an hour. If you reach an hour without incident, then it should be smooth sailing from there. If that doesn’t work, some tips include leaving some sort of white noise or something on the tv or radio. I usually leave ambient office sounds playing on my computer, (there are so many of them on YouTube). I tell my dog to guard the office and make sure she does some work, (I point to her treats in the crate). When I get back, she’s either in her crate working on her treats, or at the door running in circles because she’s happy to see me. I tell her calmly and happily that I’m so proud of her good work. Not sure if she understands me, but it helps give me a routine as well. Another tip would be to leave whatever smelly laundry of yours by their crate or the fave spot, so they have something familiar to smell.
After a while, dogs understand you’ll be back and learn to enjoy their time at home alone. There are exceptions though. A lot of dogs live with chronic anxiety or have triggers that make being alone very stressful for them. For cases like this, you might consider doggie daycare or taking your pup to the vet to see about anxiety medications. There are also diffusers that emit mama dog pheromones to calm your pet. I’ve used one for my dog. I’m not quite sure if it has worked, but it has helped with the whole. “I’m trying my best for my pet,” feelings. I disconnected it a few weeks ago and things seem pretty normal still though.
It is important to make sure your pet is happy when you leave them alone. Dogs get stressed and nervous. They can destroy property and have been known to try to escape through window screens just to find their owners. They might even self-harm by chewing at their fur or display behaviours associated with depression when they have separation anxiety. But if you keep a keen eye on your beloved fur friend and learn what keeps them happy, I’m positive you will find a solution to your anxieties together.
1. Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash
2. Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
3. Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash