WASHINGTON, August, 12, 2013 — Dogs are creatures of habit. So it’s not surprising that doggie separation anxiety (SA) is one of the most common canine disorders today. In fact, problems related to separation anxiety are the major cause for dogs ending up in animal shelters. Separation anxiety happens when a dog becomes stressed out each and every time he or she is left alone. Whether you are bringing your pet with you on vacation, or leaving your furry friend behind, there are some things dog owners can do to prevent SA.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
- restlessness and pacing
- howling or whining
- excessive barking
- sweaty paws
- going to the bathroom in the house
- soft stool
- excessive salivation
- destructive chewing
- attempting to escape
- scratching at walls, doors and floors
- jumping though windows
What would Cesar do?
According to Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, separation anxiety might be a learned behavior that is unknowingly encouraged by owners. We create the stress every time we make a big fuss when we leave or come home. Milan states that the underlying reason dogs experience SA is because they lack leadership and self-control. Either the dog actually experiences real stress when its owner leaves or the dog knows that he will get attention if he acts badly. Whatever the reason, SA can be cured or at least, modified.
Preventative tips from Dog Vacay
The folks at Dog Vacay know all about SA. As a popular site linking dog lovers with pet sitters in their locale, Dog Vacay has put together some simple tips to calm a nervous pup:
1. Run off some steam: There’s a saying that a good dog is a tired dog. It’s true; exercise is beneficial for both pets and people. A dog that has a chance to exercise all his nervous energy will be too tired to get into trouble or fret over missing mom and dad. Plus, treating a dog to fun activities is a positive way to give them a bolt of self esteem. If your dog is staying with a sitter, ask that they incorporate playtime early in your dog’s stay.
2. Resist the urge to fuss over them: This is extremely important because with dogs, it’s either getting better, or it’s getting worse. Beware of succumbing to a dog’s big sad eyes. Over-the-top displays of affection might actually signal to them that something is wrong. Instead, reward good behavior, and ignore the bad.
3. Food Association: Being alone can be scary for dogs. An easy fix can be offering the stressed out pup something yummy to eat. Try filling a Kong toy or marrow bone with peanut butter (make sure it’s natural) or wet food. You can also give dogs bully sticks without supervising them.
4. Start out Small: Practice makes perfect: dog guardians should leave their house for just a few minutes at a time, maintaining a calm hello and goodbye. This will help your four legged best friend to trust that you will return, even when you leave for an extended period of time.
5. Give them a comfy spot all their own: A bed or corner that a dog knows will do fine. A retreat for a relaxing moment will give a dog relief from anxiety. Familiar smells from the dog’s own blanket, or an owner’s tee-shirt, for example, will help a pet feel more confident.
6. Consider using over-the-counter calming products: Your local PetCo has many natural products that will help your dog overcome separation anxiety. There’s everything from calming, chewable tablets, formulated to help ease the stress to your dog during traveling, fireworks, boarding and grooming to calming collars for dogs to wear. You can even use pressure therapy to help calm an anxious dog without drugs with a “Thunder Shirt,” offering gentle, constant pressure on a dog’s torso through a tight tee-shirt.
Susan Hartzler is Washington Times Communities’ canine confident. Her expert reviews on pooch-tested pet products and services can be found on Alpha Dog.