If your fur baby has a dog chewing, drooling or barking problem when you leave the house, maybe you haven’t considered the possibility that your pup is actually suffering from separation anxiety. Maybe you already suspect this, and you came here wondering how to cure dog separation anxiety.
Yup – just like us humans, our furry friends can get very stressed when they’re left all alone. Humans can develop bad habits when we get stressed out like drinking too much alcohol, overeating or overindulging in sweets, and other unhealthy habits.
Our small dogs? Well, let’s face it, if they’re feeling stressed out and are inclined to act out, their choices are a bit limited! That’s why many dogs, when faced with being left all alone, will resort to chewing.
Table of Contents
- Rule Out Other Causes of Bad Behavior First
- Signs that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety
- How to cure dog separation anxiety
- What if all of these things don’t work?
Rule Out Other Causes of Bad Behavior First
There are several things we can do to help a dog with separation anxiety. But first, you’ll want to ensure that there isn’t something else going on. Believe it or not, there are some medical issues that can cause a dog to suddenly start chewing everything in sight or howling like a crazy dog.
Do you have a puppy? Your baby may actually be teething and just need some soothing chew toys to relieve the pain. If a dog is feeling nauseous, they may instinctively start chewing on things. If you’re not sure whether a medical condition may be affecting your dog’s behavior, it’s always best to get them in to see your vet, just to make sure.
Once you’ve ruled out a medical issue, we can start talking about the symptoms and how to cure dog separation anxiety.
Signs that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety
At this point, wouldn’t it be great if we could simply ask our dogs, Why in the world do you keep chewing my socks? Yep, it sure would. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen, so it’s up to us to put the clues together to figure why and what you can do to help.
Here are some signs that your dog is acting out due to separation anxiety:
- Your dog only chews inappropriate items when he is left alone or when you are not with him
- Your dog exhibits other unwanted behaviors when you leave such as barking, howling, going to the bathroom in the house (and he doesn’t have accidents when you’re home)
- You notice your dog is drooling or panting excessively when you’re getting ready to leave
- You observe other signs of obvious distress when you’re getting ready to leave your dog
Of course, this isn’t an all inclusive list. Your dog may only exhibit one of these behaviors, maybe he exhibits all of them, and then some. You know your dog better than anyone else and only you can really determine if what you’re seeing looks like separation anxiety or something else.
How to cure dog separation anxiety
Once you’ve decided that your dog’s gnawing is because of stress he’s feeling when you leave, we can start to take some action to cure dog separation anxiety.
1. Consider crating your dog when you’re gone
I know some people really don’t like this idea – but it is a great way to cure dog separation anxiety! Especially when crate trained from a young age, most dogs take very naturally to a
crate. I started crating my Cockapoo, Toby, from the day we brought him home. He is free to roam the house 99% of the time, but when we leave to go somewhere, we fix up a “Toby Treat” (Kong stuffed with peanut butter) and he happily runs to his crate to get it. He hardly even notices I’ve left the room.
If you haven’t crate trained in the past, read up on a bit and see if it will work in your situation. It eliminates your dog chewing on things he shouldn’t when you’re not home. Better yet, it gives him his very own “safe space” that he can feel comfortable in; a place he can sleep, play and relax when you’re not around to keep him busy!
2. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise
I once read somewhere that a tired dog is a good dog. I think there’s a lot of truth in that. And, it’s one thing you don’t want to ignore for your dog’s separation anxiety treatment.
When you’re at home, make sure your dog is getting lots of exercise. This can be accomplished through play time, going for walks – and even though this may surprise you – agility training, even for a small dog, is a great way to bond with your dog and burn off extra energy.
If your dog is getting plenty of exercise (if possible, right before you leave), he’s less likely to take his stress out on your favorite stilettos the next time you leave for work.
3. Make your comings and goings calm, cool and collected
Dogs naturally feed off of our own energy. If you’re feeling anxious about leaving your dog, he’ll pick up on that tension and is likely to exhibit stress himself. When you leave and return, make it as boring as possible. Really!
Don’t drag out your leaving any longer than necessary and try to stay as calm and unemotional as you can. Give your dog a treat, a pat on the head and a “See ya later”. That’s it. When you arrive home, don’t get on the floor and get all mushy. If your dog is jumping all over you and having a hissy fit, ignore her until she calms down. Only then acknowledge her.
I know it’s hard to do – especially for us dog mommies that love nothing more than to snuggle, kiss and cuddle our babies. But just remind yourself that you’re doing this for your baby and this is one step closer to your cure for dog separation anxiety!
4. Don’t let your routine get predictable
So, every day like clockwork, you take a shower, dry your hair, then you go out to the kitchen to make your lunch. Finally, you grab your keys, run the dog outside one last time and you’re out the door? Stop that! No really, hear me out 🙂
Just like us, dogs are creatures of habit. When they see the same routine every morning – they KNOW what’s coming next. Mommy’s leaving and Fluffy doesn’t like it.
Sometimes keeping your dog guessing can help prevent some of the anxiety that comes along with you leaving. Mix up your routine a bit. Make your lunch and then take a shower. Put your purse in the car before you take Fluffy out to go potty. The next day, mix it all up again.
Don’t let things get so routine that your dog knows exactly what you’re up to. It’s a little thing, but it can help a whole lot!
What if all of these things don’t work?
It’s possible to have a dog that just won’t respond to the above steps. In that case, it may be time to have a talk with your vet. I’m not necessarily advocating medication for a pet, but sometimes a vet has more insight into what is going on and, truly, sometimes medication can be a blessing for our furry friends. Your vet may have also have more ideas and some natural solutions you and your pet can try.
Hopefully, this article has given you a few things to think about, and you have some direction as to how to cure dog separation anxiety.
Have you experienced this with your own small dogs? What did you did to help the problem?