How to prevent your dog’s separation anxiety
Summer is very nearly upon us, and while the thought of days out, holidays, weddings and general summer fun may be exciting, it’s not always appropriate to take your four-legged family member with you.
But leaving them behind can feel nerve-wracking and stressful – especially if your pet suffers from separation anxiety.
“Separation-related problems are extremely common, and even more so following the pandemic, when many dogs got used to their owners being at home all the time,” said PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing.
“Many things can affect separation anxiety in dogs – including their genetics, personality, previous negative experiences, or lack of socialisation.
“Dogs who suffer with this anxiety might feel different emotions such as fear, frustration and panic when left alone, but there are some things you can do to not only spot this but also help reassure your pet, and help them through it.”
Common signs that your dog may be feeling anxious when left alone are:
Destruction of bedding, furniture carpets or belongings
Inappropriate toileting indoors
Barking, whining or being vocal
Pacing or being restless
Attempting to escape
Becoming depressed and doing nothing at all when you leave
If your dog is showing any signs of separation anxiety, you should speak to your vet as soon as possible – they will be able to check for possible underlying medical causes and refer you to an accredited behaviourist for support.
“To help prevent any separation problems developing in the first place, it’s a good idea to start preparing them a few weeks or even months before any plans you may have which involve leaving them at home,” adds Nina.
Make sure your dog has a place to go to that makes them feel safe.
Get them used to it by having comfortable bedding inside, offering them healthy, tasty treats and leaving their favourite toys inside. Make sure no one goes into their safe space .
Try leaving them alone for periods of time while you are in the house.
Start by leaving them for short periods of time, making sure you do the same things every time you leave.
Once they seem relaxed, you can try leaving them for slightly longer periods. Always reward them with a healthy treat.
Using feeding puzzles when dogs are left alone can keep them entertained.
Some dogs are comforted by a radio being left playing quietly in the background and others like a pheromone diffuser.
Teaching your dog to relax and settle (in the same way you would teach them how to sit and stay with positive, rewards-based training), will help them learn to calm down when told.
Nina recommends arranging for your pet a dog walker, booking them into a day care centre or asking a friend or relative to stay with them if you plan to be out for more than four hours.
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