We all crave for our old friends and family, don’t we? Dogs feel such too. When they are separated from their old and accustomed environment, they are often found depressed. They may grow disruptive, even destructive when they are left alone.
It grows anxiety and agitation in them to a certain level that their usual code of conduct is hampered. Any form of detachment from their pet parents or from their fellow canine species, be it a short or long period of time, can be a traumatic, anxious experience.
How can you be sure that your well-trained, adorable pup is suffering from Separation Anxiety? These following symptoms can help you determine that:
- Your dog will follow you from room to room and pace around you before your departure with a suspicious eye.
- He will try to prevent you from going out by drawing your attention, by making unfamiliar sounds, by chewing this or that.
- He will immediately howl and bark after you leave in a high-pitched tone.
- He may scratch exit points such as doors and windows desperately in order to escape from the confinement of the house.
- He can salivate excessively and move in a fixed circular or back and forth pattern.
- He can extensively chew different objects that are not meant for him to chew and then vomit afterwards.
- He may urinate and defecate in unusual places out of stress.
- Even he can make coprophagic activity of eating his own excretion.
- In extreme cases, he will make chaotic and destructive efforts of breaking things, digging holes somewhere, breaking his claws or even seriously hurting himself.
- And when you return, he will whine or howl in excessive joy.
These symptoms can lead you to the conclusion whether your adorable mammal is suffering from Separation Anxiety. Yet you should consult a certified animal behaviorist to be sure of that.
Now when the problem is settled, how should you deal with it to get rid of this nuisance? There are number of steps that you can follow to eradicate or at least to lessen anxiety in your dog
1. Accustom Him to Your Departure
When your dog sees you wearing a suit and boot, picking up keys, or putting on makeup, he may begin to show signs of distress for the fear of being left alone. You can wear a suit and boot and then begin to watch television, browse the internet or do simple household chores for a few minutes as an indication that you won’t leave the place immediately. It will help to reduce partially, if not completely, pre-departure anxiety to a great extent. Try to maintain this for a few weeks and the puppy will no more be upset to see you becoming ready to go out.
2. Don’t Pay too Much Attention
Another thing that you can do is to pay as little attention as possible to your dog before you leave the house or after you come back. Emotional goodbyes can trigger the separation anxiety (even it is true for babies separating from their parents) and lead toward further deterioration of the mental situation. So, don’t be emotional or over-excited before you leave rather inculcate your departure as something casual, normal, daily routine to your mammal’s mind by keeping your face calm and assertive.
Almost all the pets are over-excited when their guardians return home. You have to be a little bit cruel here. Don’t give much attention or huge arrival hugs immediately after you reach your home since it can also serve as a catalyst for separation anxiety. He will long for your arrival in this case to get the pleasurable attention of his master. So take some moment to relax, avoid him for a chunk of time (around 30 minutes); and then you can give him a thousand hugs, no problem.
3. Tire Him Out by Exercise
It is a well-proved phenomenon that a tired dog is tantamount to a calm and tranquil dog. Try to give him tasks that will make him exhausted before you go out to work. You can make him jump, run, train and do several other things to tire out both his brain and physical strength. Make sure that it becomes neither silly, simple job nor over burdensome for his strength. This technique can reduce and even resolve anxiety of short separation.
4. Train Your Dog to be Alone
This technique is often called systematic desensitization where the commitment of the owner is most important. It is probably the most successful, widely practiced tip, yet most time consuming. You have to train your dog for an enduring period of separation in this process. First, try to be out of his sight for a short time while you are at home. Then gradually increase the time tolerable to him. The mammal will acclimatize the situation day by day.
Follow the same technique when you are going out at work. Let him endure a short term separation and then a longer one. To become accustomed to this situation, the dog may need gradual separation not an abrupt one. Don’t make haste to make your dog learn this. Let him believe it to be a game of hiatus where you are detaching yourself for a short time only. Let him believe that you are out there to come back anytime. But let not drive him to the point of breaking patience. You can come back home at lunchtime to reduce the separated time at the beginning. But when the dog is capable of tolerating more detachment, you can experimentally spend your lunch time somewhere else. If the dog doesn’t show any anxiety during this time, then this process certainly works. Slow implementation of this technique can lead to a long time separation in a dog without the feeling of anxiety.
However, it should be remembered that the time variation in these cases must be increased gradually. Otherwise a sudden, abrupt absence for a long time can make these processes ineffective.
‘Counterconditioning’ means reversing the feeling that one had before, to the polar opposite state by a considerable period of training. If your quadruped puppy fears to be left alone, try to replace this crestfallen anxiety to an entertaining and exploring experience for him. Give your pet numerous things to play with before leaving for work. You can give him a Kong toy filled with food stuff favorite to him, and make sure he cannot easily access the food. He may need 20 to 30 minutes to get into the core of the yummy substance inside. In this case, he will love to get his favorite food even at the cost of hard toil. You can also hide these food stuff in an unusual place, and your dog will try to unravel the mystery with greater attention; thus a dejected mood will be replaced by an exciting, stimulated one. He will really love this game of food hunt with vital eagerness.
You can also reward the dog with something delicious just before leaving the house every day. The dog will then look for the time of your departure to get the rewarding delicacy. A frightening moment will turn into an ever desiring one. Don’t forget to choose your dog’s most loved delicacy here.
Moreover, make sure that your home is cozy and a comfort zone to stay in during your absence. Try to ensure and adjust optimum temperature for your dog’s ease. Provide numerous puzzles, game stuffs to entertain him. These counterconditioning can soothe your dog’s depressed state of mind, and he will love to be left alone in this process. But give a considerable amount of training to inure him to any kind of new puzzles and stuffs first.
Crate training can also be an effective technique to pacify your mammal’s crestfallen state of loneliness. But it is a prime necessity in this case that you have to train him first to teach him that a crate is a safe and secure place for him(you can ask a certified dog trainer to train your dog with a crate if you cannot train). In some dogs, it may not suit their psychology at the beginning to be in a Lilliputian prison cell and therefore can intensify their distress. You can closely judge his psychology and plan the next move. If the dog shows no visible signs of distress or anxiety, even when you are out of his sight for a considerable time, it may be a ‘eureka’ moment for you, as it is an indication of the dog’s endurance for the crate. But if the dog shows any sign of anxiousness (like panting, pacing, whining), this is not a good option for you to choose and you have to change tactics.
Anti-anxiety medication is highly suggested in case of severe separation anxiety. Even for mild cases it is used to some extent to reduce stress from your quadruped. But nothing is comparable to the natural training process discussed above. The best option will be perhaps a combo of medicine and behavior modification. But try not to take any sort of medicinal decision without the approval of your veterinarian.
Apart from following these steps you can do a number of things. You can keep radio, television or any records of human voice on when you depart. Familiar voices of human beings can lessen a dog’s stress to a certain extent. There are various dog appeasing pheromones available in the market, highly effective to reduce canine anxiety too. Interestingly enough, your shirt with your sweated odor also has a similar effect on your dog. Moreover, you can keep your pet to a nearby doggy day care to spend the time you are busy in your workplace. Or you can arrange for any of your family members to visit your lovely pet during your long period of absence (especially when you are out for more than 8 hours). And don’t forget to make enough, at the same time reliable arrangements for the pet when you are going out somewhere for a few days. And when you come back try to occupy your dog with something he loves to do, something that can distract his mind from the labyrinth of depression and dejection, so that your dog can endure, tolerate and even enjoy separation when you are not there with him.
There are certain tasks that should be avoided since they won’t help in this separation anxiety case. Rather an erroneous step can further deteriorate and devastate your pet’s psychology.
- Don’t punish him for his misbehave or irritating steps taken during detachment. He is not doing any mischiefs deliberately out of disobedience, but doing them out of fear and anxiety. Punishment will make the matter even worse.
- Don’t bring another pet to accompany the depressed one. Researchers generally advise to avoid this action.
- Don’t make haste to implement any step, rather proceed gradually. Remember, time is of crucial importance, not only for your dog but also for the entire eternity.
- Don’t use a small crate where the dog cannot freely move his limbs. Use a bigger one. And let not the crate be dirty. But before using a crate make sure your pet is fond of it or at least can put away with it.
- Don’t leave the puzzle toy empty; it may upset the dog more. Keep some food in it.
- Don’t use medicine in case of mild anxiety. And when necessary, take advice from your veterinarian or animal behaviorist without delay.
Furthermore, it should be remembered that young and inexperienced puppies are more likely to show separation anxiety more than adult dogs, being familiar with human interaction from their puppyhood. So, if you have a young one make sure to keep the separation period as short as possible.
Try to analyze your pet’s psychology with a keen eye to detect the problem and therefore, to implement the best possible solution. Never haste nor delay to take action. Soundness of your doggy, both physical and mental, depends mostly on your timely action. You cannot expect the dog’s anxiety to vanish within days by the magic wands of medicine or counterconditioning process. So, keep patience and try to follow the techniques mentioned above. Especially, you can try counterconditioning and desensitization, highly recommended by animal behaviorists in case of anxiety. To conclude, you should also keep in mind that your company cannot be equivalent to any regulation or techniques to eliminate fear and anxiety from your pet. Give your dog proper treatment, give him enough time and be happy together.
Acknowledgement: American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animal