How to Treat a Dog with Separation Anxiety
Your probably here because your pup has separation anxiety. You have made an important choice in looking for a way to cure your fur baby’s separation anxiety and that alone is commendable. So many paw panions end up in shelters simply because people don’t understand how to help their dog, which fuels the very reasons why your fur baby may have anxiety.
It is okay to assume that you’re going into something serious, because it is serious. If your dog has been diagnosed with separation anxiety, it is going to take a lot of work to get them to cope. The first step is understanding your pet, where they are from, their backstory, what the anxiety stems from, etc. You will also need some tools, and some support. There is no magical formula for treating separation anxiety in your pet. It is going to take time, effort and resources, but I can assure you that it is well worth the effort.
Understanding your pet
Your fur baby has a hidden past, and I don’t mean one you worry about an ex-lover having either. If you adopted your paw pal, most likely busting him out of doggy jail was not his first encounter with human kind. Your Pup was born first, most likely to a different family that had a different set of rules, and quirks. You don’t know if your pup was separated too early from their mothers, or if they were simply dropped off because of a family moving. Unless your shelter discloses to you why this dog is at the shelter, and I mean honestly discloses it to you, or you saw your pup Born, you really have no clue what Fido has been through. It is not like they can sit down with a heart-to-heart and tell you either. You must pay attention to them.
Do your fur baby show signs of anxiety early on, or only when you return, when are the signs happening? Can you leave the room when your pet is calm? Do you pet stick to you like a stalker? We really must understand separation anxiety and your pets’ symptoms to treat the anxiety.
Tools you will need
Simply put you are going to need a few things, such as a plan of attack. You should have some things lying around the house that you will be able to use as a baseline for helping your puppy with their anxiety issues. Now I wish it was as easy as telling you to spin your pup around three times and recite this rhyme, but it is not. Anxiety is a behavioral issue that can stem from several reasons, it is important to understand exactly what separation anxiety is before trying to treat it.
Your going to need a camera, one that can record while you are away, and that you can go back and review the tapes. You can use an old VCR and set up a camcorder to observe your dog’s behavior in the room where the exit door is in your room. We are not looking to ground Fido, or even punish them for their behavior here, we just want to observe. You also don’t have to get a crazy expensive cinema camera made for shooting movies either. A simple camcorder will do just fine, I think I got mine for like $90 dollars, small investment for My pooch’s health, and I can use it for other things too.
I got mine on amazon here is the exact one that I used on Buster.
It doesn’t really have a super long battery, but I just left it plugged in, and the resolution was okay, I could see my dogs and what they were doing. That’s the most important part.
Your going to need a game plan, if you have no idea how to implement a good solid game plan, there are several resources out there to Help. One of my favorite resources is a Book Titled Don’t leave me, By Nicole wilde. This book really gives you a lot of value for your money and is a great resource to have.
Kennel, or no Kennel?
I bring this up because it is one of those things that everyone assumes you must do, and It simply is not that simple.
Can a Kennel be a Useful tool when trying to help your pup?
Yes, of course it can, but it can also hurt your progress if it doesn’t apply to your pup.
What do you mean?
Depending on your dog’s anxiety severity, and behavioral signs depends on whether a kennel would help or not. In the book mentioned above, the author sets a good example. You really don’t want to use a kennel unless your 100% positive your dog will not harm themselves, and it will not increase anxiety levels.
Treats, you’re going to need lots of treats.
You must reward them for good behavior and not punish them for anxious behavior. That’s right, no punishing your dog. You should never hit your dog anyway, all that is going to happen is that your dog is going to be scared and anxious, so give them treats instead. And you don’t want to re-enforce their anxiety, it can be easy to want to love on your fur baby when they are jumping on you and your just as happy to see them as they are you. Wait until they calm down, and then give them attention.
The point here is that you’re going to need to stock up on your paw pals’ favorite treats. If treats are not a thing in your house, and you have planned meal times, then you can use their kibble as a treat.
An old sweater and/or some dog toys
Isn’t it cute when they take your sweater or shoes and rip it to shreds? Yeah It’s not though, because they always choose the newest things! Mainly because they have your scent on them and mostly your scent. Let me guess, you just got this new outfit, wore it one time, put it in the laundry, came home and Fido got it. No more favorite outfit?!
Your scent is all over that outfit, and nothing else has touched it. It’s not revenge, dogs don’t think that way, it smells like you the strongest and you’re not home. So, take an old sweater, and wear it, a lot. You could even put it between your head and pillow at night to get extra you juice on it for Fido, and don’t wash it until you absolutely must. I know it sounds gross to me too, but you’re going to use this tool as sort of keep calm and sleep on dog credit card. (You’re going to be leaving this with Fido when you leave).
You are also going to need a stopwatch, and a Journal. You can use a smart phone if you want, but remember you’re going to need to keep accurate records here.
You need everyone in the family on board here, if you are going to help your fur baby everyone needs to be on board. You can’t have grandma spoiling your paw pal with extra love when she walks in for Sunday brunch.
Sorry Grandma, It’s for the dog, really.
Clearly communicating your plan is key, you going to have to go through the entire process laid out in Nicole Wilde’s book, you must communicate your plan to your household and anyone involved in your paw-panions life. Doing the timed leave sessions is not an easy feat and can take time. This book is highly recommended and I think there is a free trial for Kindle unlimited going on right now too.
You need to talk this over with your veterinarian, make sure you are on a treatment plan that is helpful to your dog. Please do not give your dog any allergy medication just to calm them down, this is by far not a solution. There are some holistic medications that can help, however most of these are just calming oils and are not recommended for treatment, but more of an aid in your treatment plan.
Same thing with prescriptions from your veterinarian, if your veterinarian does determine that your dog could benefit from a prescription, it should be used in conjunction with a behavioral treatment plan. Please discuss with your veterinarian which medicated treatment plan may be suitable for your pup.
We will make no recommendations for this department.
Following the steps:
Step one is to properly asses your pup’s anxiety at different leaving cues. Your dog is going to show different signs at different points during your departure, you need to understand these signs, and address those issues.
Step two: Exit sessions
Starting with a room, you want you dog to remain calm when you exit. You want to try this in small sessions, maybe 15-minute sessions to build up to you leaving. At this stage you also don’t want to use the same door as your normal exit door or it can set you back.
Reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior. This isn’t really a step but more of an overall, your want to insure confidence within your pet, and show them that bad behavior will not be rewarded. You want to avoid making the anxiety worse with negative assimilation, you only want to use positive assimilation while desensitizing your pup to your departure.
My story…….part of it anyway
Buster is my dog, who had Separation anxiety the worst out of all three of my dogs. He was ignored and left in a backyard for a long time before I got him. At times he still acts up, still has some high anxiety but I tell you, a small commitment has kept him out of the shelters, and in my home. He is by far one of my most well-behaved dogs.
Adopting buster was a slow process as such I made some mistakes, but I kept trying with him. At one point this dog was so anxious that he would not listen at all, he just sat there and barked at everything, and followed me everywhere. He wouldn’t play, I couldn’t do anything really without this dog right there wanting attention. He is by far well-behaved now, and really enjoys his crinkle toys. I wouldn’t trade that dog for the world, so Please I urge you to not give up on your pup and stay strong, it is well worth it. I wish you the best of luck. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions.