Dog owners know what it’s like to leave the house, only to come home and see that half of the living room has been destroyed. After the initial burst of anger and shock, we go looking for the culprit, only to find our furry friend in a corner somewhere, cowering in fear because he or she knows that trouble is looming. For most of us, that sight means that our anger instantly turns to empathy and sorrow. It also leads to a difficult situation where every time we leave our house without our dog, we fear what’s going to happen while we’re gone.
Separation anxiety is a real thing, and it’s something that causes a lot of harm in both dogs and humans. Everyone notices that something is wrong when it arises, but not everyone recognizes what it is. Unfortunately, not enough people know how to fix separation anxiety in dogs. Those who may be struggling with this question can take a deep breath, though, because there are steps that can be taken to help your friend. At KONG, we’ve been providing all sorts of solutions to all sorts of dog-related challenges for 50 years. Below we’re going to present you with some ideas on how to handle this situation.
1. Make Your Journey Rewarding
One idea for how to fix separation anxiety in dogs is to turn the entire experience from terribly stressful to one that’s actually something to look forward to for your furry friend. You can do that by rewarding your dog for staying home when you leave. How do you do that? Give it a treat or a special toy to play with – perhaps one with peanut butter or a treat inside – when you walk out the door. KONG Club has all the toys and treats you’ll need.
If you’re concerned that the treat you leave behind will only keep your dog busy for a relatively short period of time, you should stop worrying about that. That’s because most studies indicate that dogs with separation anxiety experience the height of anxiety within the first 20 minutes of being left alone. After that, most tend to calm down a bit.
2. Don’t Make Coming and Going a Big Deal
All of us who own dogs look forward to being greeted as though we’ve just conquered the universe and returned home victorious every time we open our doors. It’s fun, it feels good and it’s not uncommon to think that it’d be great if we were always greeted in this manner by everyone. It’s also not something to encourage when trying to figure out how to fix separation anxiety in dogs.
If you build leaving and returning into momentous occasions with long, drawn-out good-byes and hellos, your dog will attach a lot of emotion to them. Instead, when it’s time to go, hand your dog that KONG Club treat and walk out calmly. When you return, don’t run up to your dog to greet it. Instead, ignore it for a few minutes and then casually greet it when you’re settled.
3. Regularize Your Leaving Routine
When our dogs see us picking up our wallets, putting on our sunglasses, grabbing our keys, and putting on our shoes, they know we’re leaving soon. That’s going to spark a pretty strong reaction in dogs that have separation anxiety. Usually, at that point, the dog will start to whine, perhaps bark a bit or even howl and generally cling to you with everything it’s got in its body to convince you to stay home and play or relax.
When trying to figure out how to fix separation anxiety in dogs, work on ways to make your leaving routine a more regular part of your day. Yes, it may seem strange to put on your shoes and grab your keys only to go sit on the couch. Yes, at first it will likely cause a lot of stress for your dog, but as you continue to do that over the course of a few days, these acts will start to seem more routine and normal and may not be as stressful for your dog when you actually do get up to leave.
4. Too Tired To Be Stressed
It seems as though this is the answer to a lot of dog-related challenges, and yes, it’s an answer for how to fix separation anxiety in dogs: exercise. If your dog is too tired to do anything but take a nap and relax, it’s going to be too tired to go through its separation anxiety routine as well. It’ll be too busy drinking water and taking a big nap in its favorite sleeping spot, and by the time it wakes up, you may already be home or it’ll be past the time when your absence is fresh.
Therefore, if you’re going to leave for something regular, such as a day at work or a weekly get-together with friends, build time into your schedule to give your furry friend a big, long walk or a healthy run before you go. It’ll tire it out, reduce natural anxieties, and release positive hormones that tend to create a relaxed and satisfied feeling.
There are ideas for how to fix separation anxiety in dogs. It is something that can be managed and in some cases overcome. If your dog has a severe anxiety problem, seek advice from your veterinarian. If you’re looking for more everyday solutions, come on in to the KONG Club and our veterinary team will create customized plans just for you