This is a bit of a specific topic this week, over the last couple of years our working patterns and lives have been very different to the norm where we’ve been spending more time at home and less time out at work. This has meant that some of our furry friends have started suffering from separation anxiety when they never have before.
“Dogs can get stressed, but there is a lot we can do to support them. By paying attention to their behaviour, you can identify the signs and causes of their stress and therefore, help your dog.”
Dr Paul Boland, JP Holistic Nutrition
So, what does separation anxiety look like?
Anxiety is hard for dogs because they can’t communicate like us humans do so they tend to exhibit some less desirable behaviours such as disruptive or destructive habits – especially around exit points such as windows and doors. They can also bark or howl when left or start to appear anxious/needy when someone is preparing to leave. Although called separation anxiety it can also manifest as depression or sadness which can be especially hard to witness.
What can you do about separation anxiety?
The most important thing to do is to resolve the underlying anxiety so that you can teach your furry friend to at least tolerate – if not enjoy- being left alone. The first thing you should do is rule out any underlying medical problems by talking to your vet, once that has been done you can start looking at using counter conditioning methods for changing your dog’s reactions and behaviours at being left.
For Mild Cases – use rewards and replacement to recondition your dog’s anxiety, helping them to associate being left with something good. Try giving them a puzzle toy or Kong for them to work on which will take 2-30 minutes to finish- giving both distraction and a treat.
For Moderate to Severe Cases – It will take time and patience to change your dog’s behaviour but you can work on leaving them for short periods of time, showing that you will return and gradually increase the length of these absences. Make sure you avoid creating or promoting any fear in your dog and work hard on love and reassurance.
Of course, in some cases you will need to seek professional help – just like we would for our own mental health problems.