I Thought You Were Never Coming Back…
When I look at this image, I see both the comedic aspect of it, as well as what is actually happening.
Separation anxiety is a very real, and often very destructive, problem in dogs.
It’s also fairly common.
Do you or someone you know have a pet that seems to get incredibly wound up at the thought of their person leaving them? It can be if you’re running into town and they stay at home, them staying in the car- windows cracked of course- while you go into the store for something, or even if they have to sleep in a different room from you.
These are all signs of separation anxiety.
Heck, my old man Diz even has issues with it.
He was perfectly fine being kenneled while we were gone until he reached about 11 years. Now, we can’t force him into a kennel without having a mess to clean up. He would wind himself up so badly that he would dehydrate himself and everything came out. So now, we solve that problem by leaving him loose inside the house while we’re gone- always making sure all the bedroom and bathroom doors are closed and we limit his water.
What does he do now?
He sleeps happily on his bed while we’re gone- after he’s followed us into the kitchen to see us off, of course.
The biggest challenge with separation anxiety is figuring out how to fix the problem. It is treatable, it just takes a little bit of effort on your part.
The most important thing to remember is that you should never punish your dog for having this anxiety. S/he loves you dearly and you’re an incredibly important and integral part of their life- why would you punish them for sharing a bond with you?
You are their pack. Dogs are creatures whose mentality is based around the idea of having a central group, be it just you or your whole family, you are their pack. When you leave and don’t take them with you, it’s natural for them to experience distress.
Why can’t they go with you?
Where are you going?
Will you be coming back?
These are all part of the pack mentality. You dog has a tightly constructed bond with you and they want to be a part of your life. When you leave them out of it, they’re going to be stressed about it.
Now, I’m not saying you need to take your pet everywhere. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I just want you to look at it from their point of view first and understand what reasons they have for being so worked up when you leave them at home or wherever.
In fact, if you were to take you dog everywhere, you would only exacerbate the problem.
Sadly, separation anxiety is a fairly common reason for dogs ending up at shelters. People don’t know how to deal with it or don’t bother treating the problem- so they take the easy way out.
But it is treatable.
Depending on the case, the treatment will vary. It will take work and a lot of reinforcement, but your dog will learn to accept that you and s/he need to be apart sometimes, and that they are safe there without you.
If your dog only has a mild case of separation anxiety, it is fairly simple to treat.
Whenever you leave, make sure your pooch has clean water, a comfy place to sleep, and toys to occupy them while you’re gone.
For our pups, using stuffed kongs, treat balls, and rawhides all work wonderfully. We’ve used a variety of stuffings- peanut butter and treats, cheese whiz (as gross as it sounds and looks) mixed with kibble or treats, or you can buy stuffed bones at the pet store and occasionally your butcher might have a good sale on bones.
All of these will help keep your pet occupied while you’re gone and will reduce the stress that they feel while you’re gone by giving them something else to concentrate on while you’re away.
However, this is not enough. You’ve got to do some work while you are home as well.
Make sure that you give your pal plenty of exercise while you’re home- walks, runs, endless throwing of tennis balls. In addition to this, obedience training never hurts either.
Something that might also help- it did with my terrier- is to leave either a blanket or article of clothing with your scent on it. I would leave a blanket I had slept with previously and place it on his bed. I always found him curled up on it, happily snoozing away.
Another thing that can help is leaving the radio or tv on while you’re away. It helps it seem like they aren’t alone, even if you aren’t there. The idea of someone still being there can be very helpful for a dog that is stressing about being left home alone.
These can still be helpful methods for dogs with more extreme cases of separation anxiety, but they may need medication from your vet if the case is serious enough.
Your dog should know that it’s okay to be separated from you. It will take some effort, but if you can get your dog to learn how to handle being separated from you while you’re at home, it will make it more bearable while you aren’t home.
If you can get your dog used to staying in a different room while you’re home, either by crating them or working on a sit or down stay. You can give them a treat ball, kong, stuffed bone, etc. As long as it’s something to keep them occupied and calm, they’ll begin to learn that being away from you isn’t scary and that it’s okay for you to not always be there.
These are just some ways to combat separation anxiety. If you need to, don’t be afraid to ask your vet or a local trainer for help. They might offer some helpful insight that can solve any problems you might be encountering.
Always remember, separation anxiety is treatable and to be patient with your pooch. Being away from you is stressful and you’ve got to handle the situation with care and understanding.
I hope this helps if you or anyone you know has a pet with this problem.
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