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Changes in routine can be traumatic for your dog. A family vacation; a change in your work schedule or relocation for a new job; an impending storm; or even repairmen visits can create havoc to the safety and security of a dog’s home environment. Subtle, as well as significant changes can lead to new or unwanted behaviors, like chewing, howling, defecating, and urinating in your home, as well as pacing or trying to get loose from your yard. If these actions are added with panic or signs of stress or depression, your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety.
The first action you should take is to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any medical problems. Keeping a record of these behaviors can give your veterinarian thorough information in examining your dog, as well as a plan of action for a direction to follow for the best care that can be offered.
If the result is that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, the goal lies within resolving the underlying issue and help to tolerate times left alone. Here are some tips in helping your dog through separation anxiety:
1. Offer calming treats prior to stressful situations. There are many brands with all natural ingredients that can be found at local pet stores, natural food stores, and pet supply warehouses that contain such ingredients as lavender and chamomile. A treat-dispensing toy may give them something else to focus on and alleviate anxiety.
2. Calming collars, shampoos, and air sprays or dispensers contain natural ingredients and can be an inexpensive, effective tool on their own or in combination with calming treats. The effects of these items can last from hours to up to a month, depending on which item is purchased and many come with money-back guarantees.
3. Providing multiple times a day for exercise, play, or a “dog-designated” job or chore can provide mental and physical stimulation and eliminate excess energy that adds to their separation anxiety during their time alone.
4. Teach your dog that just because you pick up your car keys or put your coat on, does not mean that you are leaving. Put your coat on and hold your keys while you sit at the table or in front of the computer or television.
5. Taking small steps in your process of overcoming separation anxiety will not be as overwhelming with stimulation to your dog.
6. The whole family must be involved and proactively regimented in the way the desensitization process is handled within the home to be effective.
7. Interactions with your dog should be conducted in a calm manner. Greetings and departures should be done with a basic word of “hello” or “goodbye”, a pat on the head and then depart. Extra attention should be avoided until the dog’s disposition becomes calm and relaxed.
Remember, tough love is not effective. Do not punish or reprimand your dog if he, or she, does not conquer their fears quickly. Their behaviors may increase or become worse than originally experienced. Patience is your greatest key in success for alleviating separation anxiety.