There’s a reason why dogs are thought of as man’s trusty sidekick. The emotional bond between a pup and their owner is unlike any other connection. Dogs can provide support to humans emotionally, physically, and psychologically to the extent that they are relied on as a coping mechanism for many struggling with anger, loneliness, and anxiety. The depth of the emotional bond built is often a two-way street— many dogs experience feelings of intense anxiety when they are separated from their guardian and act out in response to those stressful feelings.
Separation anxiety is common, even when dogs are separated from their owners for mere hours at a time. A dog may howl, bark, chew, destroy, defecate, or try to escape in the absence of their owner as a response to feelings of stress and anxiety. Dogs that have changed owners, were relocated, or abandoned are more likely to exhibit these behaviors. So how does a pet owner cope with their distressed pup? Surely, we cannot be with our dogs every minute of the day (no matter how much we may want to be). Encouraging your pup to employ healthy behavior when they are faced with bouts of separation anxiety is beneficial for both pet and pet owner alike.
Tips for Separation Anxiety
Sometimes, a sudden change to the normal everyday routine can trigger separation anxiety. This can include changes in schedule, changes in residence, changes to members of the household, and—most prevalently—changes in guardianship. To minimize your pup’s negative feelings, you could employ the following tips for reducing separation anxiety:
1. Provide a puzzle toy
Boredom and anticipation can cause dogs to misbehave when they are not in the presence of their owner. A toy that a dog is able to chew on and play with while they are rewarded with periodic bits of food or peanut butter is an excellent way to occupy a pup’s time. These toys encourage chewing and licking, which is known to calm frenzied dogs.
2. Walk or play with your dog before the separation
Tiring your dog out before leaving the house is a great way to expend the pup’s energy so that they will be less likely to act out once you’re gone. A period of fun exercise will also allow your dog to relax and fall asleep once you leave and stifle feelings of anxiety.
Counter-conditioning is a treatment that involves associating items that a dog loves with things that make a dog anxious. For example, giving your pup a treat before you leave and when you get home will teach it to expect something good when you get back. This can induce positive feelings in your dog when you leave and make it less likely that they will misbehave.
Dealing with your pet’s separation anxiety can be hard, but—like all training—positive reinforcement and practice can significantly lessen your pup’s anxious feelings and make for a happier, healthier dog.
Contact the Walk! ATX Team
Providing your pup with basic training skills is invaluable and will provide for a healthier relationship between pet and owner. If your dog is in need of training, don’t hesitate to contact Walk! ATX for information about our services. We provide professional, quality services like pet sitting, basic training, and dog walking for pups of all kinds. Reach out to our Austin offices at (512) 655-9557 to learn more.