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Separation Anxiety in Dogs and How to Deal with It

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

Most dogs enjoy company - whether that’s from other dogs, their owners or even

feline friends!

Although most dogs are content when they’re left alone, any pet can go on to

develop separation anxiety due to an event or traumatic experience. This could be

anything from losing a companion, to being re-homed or a bad experience whilst

you were out - such as fireworks.

Separation anxiety can lead to unwanted behaviour such as barking (which often

also upsets your neighbours as you may be unaware that your dog is doing it until

they complain) or they will be frightened that you will leave at any moment and

become nervous, shadowing and clinging to a member of the family whenever they

do something that indicates leaving the house; putting shoes on or picking up your

car keys.

Other symptoms include destructive behaviour such as chewing furniture,

shredding your possessions, scratching doors and floors, over-grooming

themselves, forgetting their usual toilet training and choosing to go in the house (it

has been known for this to be on a pillow or bed where you lie!) or intense

excitement when you return home.

An obvious one to suggest from Harris Hounds is daycare with us - or for us to pay

your dog a visit and take them for a walk on the days that you are not there.

However, we do understand that that isn’t possible in every situation.

If you’re concerned about how your pet behaves when they are on their own, then

you could set up a video camera to record their behaviour. Also, sometimes you

may identify a certain problem with your pet that could potentially be a medical

issue - so if that’s the case, make sure you get them checked by the vet.

In the short term, there are things that you can do to help your dog deal with being

left on their own that will hopefully help ease the distress.

Short Term Treatment

It is very important not to punish your dog when they display any undesirable

behaviour. Your dog does not understand being punished and it will only make the

anxiety worse.

Consider the services of Harris Hounds or a pet sitter. We can offer walking as well

as day-boarding.

Distract your dog with a treat whenever you need to leave the house. Kong toys

can be filled with treats or with a part of their meal and frozen in advance. This

means that the dog spends time licking the kong as the food melts. It’s a great

distraction for them.

You can obtain pheromones, such as DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) that can

help calm your dog. They are usually available in a collar, plug-in diffuser or spray.

If you need further advice then speak to a local vet.

Long Term Treatment

Start by desensitising your pet. Build up to leaving them on their own. You will need

to be patient as this can take a long time to achieve.

If your dog gets anxious while you are getting ready to leave the house, then

desensitisation training may stop this behaviour. This could also be helped by

packing the car in advance before you need to leave and leaving the house calmly

to reduce their level of excitement.

More exercise. Ensure they are well exercised before you leave. This will leave

them calmer and potentially able to rest while you are gone.

If they tend to follow one particular person around the house then try not giving

them attention when they seek it but instead wait for them to be calm and settled

before interacting.

Get your dog used to a safe place in the house where they will be kept when they

are left. Many owners consider crates to be cruel - but studies have shown that if a

dog is happy and used to the environment - and ensuring it is big enough for them

to move freely - they become used to having a safe place to be. Encourage them to

use it when you are in the house too - put in a blanket that has your scent on it and

they will feel that you are close to them.

If you have re-homed a rescue dog then it may be a hard thing to start with - but all

of the above tips should help long-term.

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