Whether you have a dog or puppy with separation anxiety the symptoms will be similar, but the behavior may be an effect of different reasons. As many pet owners know, separation anxiety is very common among dogs. If you are wondering how to help a dog with separation anxiety it is important to know exactly why your dog is reacting this way when you leave. To fix the problem efficiently it helps to know what sparked this behavior.
Some veterinarians may suggest canine antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. Although these methods may work they usually come with a risk factor. Fortunately, there are more natural ways to calm your furry friend. Behavior modification training can help as well. But before we learn any dog or puppy separation anxiety solutions, let’s first learn a bit more about what separation anxiety is…
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Dogs are sociable animals. You are the closest thing that your pet has to a family. So, when you leave them alone, they may feel abandoned. They will not be able to find comfort. This results in an increase in stress and anxiety levels.
Sadly, as this anxiety increases it can lead to destructive behavior and even self-harm. These are the cycles and actions of a dog experiencing separation anxiety. Veterinarians categorize separation anxiety as a form of canine anxiety. Approximately 16 percent of dogs nationwide suffer from separation anxiety, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). This means almost 1 out of every 6 dogs will experience separation anxiety within their lifetime.
So what exactly is going on inside the body and mind of a dog experiencing separation anxiety? Similar to humans, a dog’s mood is regulated through physiological processes in the brain. Did you know that petting your dog can release “feel good” hormones like serotonin and oxytocin within your body?
Furthermore, when our dogs feel happy or become excited they have a similar release of “feel good” hormones internally. Additionally, many dogs experience negative emotions when their owner leaves. This is partly due to the release of the hormone cortisol which a dog’s body releases during stressful situations. High levels of cortisol have been known to reduce the levels of serotonin and dopamine within the system.
Some dog breeds are more susceptible than others to separation anxiety. Weimaraners, Spring Spaniels, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers have the highest risk. Contrastingly, Boston Terriers, Miniature Schnauzers, Lhasa Apsos, and Bull Mastiffs are breeds which least prone to dog separation anxiety.
Why Do Puppies Have Separation Anxiety?
Before you look for puppy separation anxiety solutions, you should first know why the pup is acting that way. Some puppy owners unknowingly encourage the behavior. They make a big fuss when leaving or coming home. When owners do that, they are rewarding the puppy’s concerns with their absence. They are provoking the puppy to be more stressful every time they leave the home.
Dog owners usually bring their puppy everywhere with for socialization. Puppies look at their owners as their source of confidence and security, as well as the leader of their pack. A change in this routine can cause separation anxiety.
There are other causes of separation anxiety. Bored puppies or ones that lack exercise can also develop the condition. Retrievers love to carry, protection breeds try to protect their owners, and terriers want to dig. There are instances in which owners try to hold puppies back from their natural drives and instincts, instead of nurturing them. This can result in anxious behavior in some dogs.
However, the most common cause of puppy separation anxiety is the lack of socialization. It is easy for a puppy to become overwhelmed, especially if you introduce it to many new experiences and different types of people and dogs in various environments. To avoid separation anxiety from forming it is best to ensure the puppy is not overwhelmed and these experiences are pleasurable.
What Causes Separation Anxiety In Adult Dogs?
When an adult dog begins to display separation anxiety behavior it is usually for different reasons than that of a puppy. Separation anxiety in adult dogs is often the result of past traumatic experiences.
Sometimes, the death of a family member or another pet in the household triggers this issue. Researchers are not sure what the exact cause is. It is believed that shelter dogs, as well as those who suffered the loss of a human friend, are predisposed to this condition.
Maybe the previous owner mistreated the dog verbally or physically. Now that you are around the abuse factor is gone. Perhaps the dog thinks when you leave the abuser may come back. In this case, the dog views you as a safe haven. It feels safe when you are present. This will cause anxiety to rise when you are gone.
Lifestyle changes, such as moving to a new city or being left alone for too long, may cause separation anxiety too. This problem can affect any pet, not just dogs. It often occurs in cats, hamsters, or parrots. Simply said, they’re afraid of being left alone. Any change in the family’s routine or dynamics can trigger its symptoms.
Knowing how to help a dog with separation anxiety can save his life. Just imagine what could happen if your beloved friend escapes the house or injures himself. Thus, it’s crucial to identify the symptoms and take the proper steps needed to prevent these issues.
Common Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs & Puppies
Dogs of all ages and breeds can develop this problem. The most common signs include:
- Intense pacing around the house
- Lack of appetite
- Urinating or defecating indoors
- Aggressive destructive behavior
- Excessive drooling
- Digging at doors
- Scratching doors or windows
- Constant barking and whining
- Anxiety and depression
Many times, separation anxiety is mistaken for misbehavior. As a result, pet owners punish the dog instead of helping him recover. If these symptoms occur only in your absence or every time you leave, your dog has separation anxiety.
This disorder causes your pet to experience extreme stress. It’s not a learned behavior. If left untreated, it may lead to depression and full-blown panic attacks.
Dog & Puppy Separation Anxiety Solutions
Coming home to find out that your place has been wrecked is no fun. However, punishing your dog is the worst thing you can do. Your furry friend misbehaves because he misses you. It’s his way of showing how much you mean to him.
Depending on how severe your pet’s anxiety level will determine how to approach a proper treatment. A mild or moderate case of separation anxiety may consist of whimpering or howling amongst your departure or return. Urination or defecation may also be signs of mild separation anxiety in canines. However, if your dog completely destroys your place, hurts itself, or tries to escape, then its level of separation anxiety most likely is severe.
The question is: What’s the best way to deal with dog anxiety? About 41% of dogs don’t receive treatment, which only worsens the problem. 22% are treated with drugs and behavior modifications.
Over 10% are treated with drugs alone. Unfortunately, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications carry side effects. Hyperthermia, rapid heart rate, diarrhea, seizures, confusion, and difficulty walking are just a few to mention. There are safer ways to help your furry friend.
Changing Your Departure Routine
One of the easiest ways to decrease your dog’s separation anxiety is to change the way you act before departing from them. The point is not to call attention or give a signal to the fact that you are leaving. Incorporating this strategy from day one, with your new puppy, can help you avoid separation anxiety from ever forming.
For instance, try eating breakfast before taking a shower, or pick up the keys and then watch TV instead of leaving home right away. This will help decrease your pet’s anxiety, as he won’t be able to identify your departure cues.
Don’t make a fuss when you’re walking out the door. Stay calm and walk away without giving your pet hugs and kisses. Eliminate stressors that may affect him, such as harsh verbal punishment, shock collars, or choke chains.
It can also be helpful to leave your dog or puppy with a distraction. Try leaving the radio or television on while preparing to leave. Giving them a toy might also create a diversion while you leave. Doing this may also help occupy your dog’s attention while you are gone.
If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety it is best to continuously change your routine when you are leaving so your dog cannot recognize any signals of your departure.
If it is just a mild case, counterconditioning is one of the best dog or puppy separation anxiety solutions. Counterconditioning is the process of changing the dog’s anxious reactions into something that is relaxing, calming, or even rewarding.
The process allows you to associate the presence or sight of a feared situation, person, animal, or object with something that is good. Counterconditioning takes time before your dog or puppy learns that whatever he fears is actually good.
Counterconditioning for dogs with separation anxiety involves associating being alone with something good, such as good food. Every time you go out, you can give your dog a puzzle toy with food stuffed inside.
Some food you can put inside the toy includes frozen banana and cottage cheese, canned dog food, low-fat peanut butter, or low-fat cream cheese, just to name a few. Try adding a CBD dog treat to upgrade this anti-anxiety solution.
It’s important that you remove the toy as soon as you arrive, and the dog can only have access to it when you are away. Keep in mind that counterconditioning alone generally only works with mild cases of separation anxiety.
If your dog’s case is moderate desensitization is one of the most efficient dogs and puppy separation anxiety solutions. Desensitization is the process of accustoming your dog to being home alone gradually through short separations that don’t result in anxiety attacks. Once the dog or puppy becomes accustomed to you being gone for a short time you can gradually increase the duration of separation time.
Natural Remedies for Separation Anxiety
There are a variety of natural remedies available on the internet. For your convenience, we have gathered the most efficient natural separation anxiety solutions. These treatments may help to naturally calm your dog and relieve anxiety.
This is a natural herb widely-known for its anti-anxiety properties. Chamomile is also capable of easing an upset stomach which can be a symptom of nervousness. Its calming effects are most likely due to the antioxidant apigenin. Chamomile contains high levels of apigenin which has the ability to attach to specific receptors in the brain, in turn, decreasing anxiety.
A natural herb which can act as a mild sedative. Humans use this herb to naturally to relieve insomnia, stress, and anxiety. Surprisingly, it works similarly in dogs. Although, Valerian Root may cause certain side effects when combining with other prescriptions. Therefore it is advised to proceed with your veterinarian’s advice.
This is a natural amino acid which is mainly found in tea leaves, but it can also be found in certain types of mushrooms. L-Theanine can naturally help calm a dog’s anxiety while avoiding drowsiness. It has the potential to improve mood and reduce physical and mental stress.
This is a natural compound which comes from the hemp plant. Not to be confused with marijuana or THC, CBD will not get you or your dog high. Many people find success using CBD oil for separation anxiety in dogs and puppies.
As mentioned earlier, stress and anxiety can raise cortisol levels, this in effect lowers levels of “feel good” hormones such as serotonin or dopamine. However, there have been successful studies with results implying that CBD may potentially reduce cortisol levels. Research on the effectiveness of CBD is still ongoing.
To use CBD oil for separation anxiety in dogs, simply drop the appropriate dosage in your dog’s mouth. If your dog makes this difficult, try dropping some CBD oil on your dog’s food or favorite treat before you leave. There are a variety of CBD products available to help calm separation anxiety in dogs. However, we also make some special formulated CBD dog treats specifically intended to treat stress and anxiety in dogs.
Holistapet – CBD Dog Treats +Stress & Anxiety Relief, made with all-natural ingredients and contains no gluten, dairy, or GMOs. These delicious treats are infused with CBD. Chamomile is also one of its active compounds along L-theanine. This combination of CBD and natural herbal remedies creates a powerhouse to combat separation anxiety in dogs.
Combining Separation Anxiety Solutions
When combating separation anxiety, combining natural remedies with behavioral modification will always give you and your dog the quickest results. You may find success by combining different behavioral modification therapies. Although, many dog owners find the most success from combining behavioral modification with a natural remedy like CBD.
If your dog has a more severe case of separation anxiety, then combining different treatments will most likely be necessary. Depending on the severity, this can become a complex process, and there are times when you may need professional help to get positive results. The procedure can backfire, and the dog will be more stressed. You can employ the services of a dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist for your dog or puppy to find the best separation anxiety solutions.
If your dog suffers from a severe case of separation anxiety and you have to leave for a long time you might want to leave him with a friend or neighbor. Dog daycare centers are a good choice as well. These may be your best options until you are able to reduce your dog’s separation anxiety to a manageable level.
Separation anxiety doesn’t go away overnight. It can take weeks or even months to reinforce new habits in your pet. The key is to be consistent and work on desensitizing him slowly. Try to identify the root cause of his anxiety and refrain from punishing him.
BONUS! Make sure to read our full Pet Anxiety Guide on Separation Anxiety, Travel Anxiety & Loud Noise Anxiety