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Have you ever returned from time away — a summer vacation, a weekend getaway or a business trip — to find your home in shambles thanks to your dog? If so, there is a good chance your dog has separation anxiety. Given the prevalence of this condition — 20 to 40 percent of dogs shown to veterinarian specialists suffer from this anxiety — it’s important to identify the signs and know what you can do to help your pet.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
When you understand what to look for in your dog’s behavior, you can begin to take the necessary steps to aid their condition when you leave.
Here are a few of the most common symptoms of separation anxiety:
Urinating and Defecating
Outside of puppy training, improper urination or defecation in your home, while you are away, is a red flag that your dog may suffer from separation anxiety.
Chewing, Scratching and Destructive Behavior
Emotional distress is the primary driver of your dog’s behavior when you leave for an extended time. As their companion, your dog has developed an attachment with you that is strained when they are alone. It’s common for dogs to release their stress on pillows, carpet, door frames or whatever else they can get their claws and teeth into.
Excessive barking or howling is another telltale sign that your dog may have separation anxiety, especially if they are not vocal when they are with you. When you return to your home, ask a neighbor if they noticed any sounds from your dog while you were away.
How to Ease Separation Anxiety in Your Dog
Taking steps to comfort your pet’s separation anxiety can ease your frustrations and alleviate the strain on your human-animal bond. Consider these steps next time you are about to head out.
Like people, dogs can benefit from routines. Routines can help your pets adjust to your schedule so they know when you are likely to leave and return.
Playing with your dog or taking your dog for a walk is a great strategy to relax your pet while giving them quality exercise. Usually, pets are tired after a long walk and ready for a quick nap, allowing you time to get out of the house.
When pets are home alone with nothing to do but miss having you around, they are more likely to act on their emotional distress than if they had a distraction. Turning on a TV or playing music for your pet can offer them some engagement. The sounds of other voices can also soothe your dog and make them feel like they are with people.
Toys and games allow your dog to keep busy and mentally stimulated while you are away. One game that can engage your pet is to measure out their daily food into smaller portions hidden around the home. This enables your dog’s instinct of hunting and keeps them active throughout the time they are by themselves.
Remain calm during your goodbyes. Your dog can sense when you’re nervous about leaving, which can trigger their separation anxiety. If your dog starts to act up when they recognize that you are about to head out, only show them attention when they have calmed down.
Dragging out a goodbye can signal to your dog that you are reluctant to leave. Lead by example by keeping your goodbye brief and nonchalant to not spur any feelings of anxiety in your dog.
Ease your dog’s separation anxiety with these tips and return home to a calmer dog and neater house after your next day away or future adventure.