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Easing Separation Anxiety in Dogs



It’s mid-February at the time of writing and the working year is now in full swing! That means most of us have returned to our workplaces after what was hopefully a refreshing and relaxing Summer break. It also means a time of increased separation anxiety in our furry friends, as we transition from long, lazy days spent with them at home, to many hours apart.


Whilst cats can also experience this condition, it’s far more common in our canine friends – with up to 40% of dogs suffering separation anxiety according to research.


That’s why this month the Pets Country Club team turn our attention to this issue, and having done our own additional homework, we’re pleased to share these practical tips to ease separation anxiety in dogs – making for a happier household all round! 😊

 

What is Canine Separation Anxiety?

Whilst not a strictly scientific term, Canine Separation Anxiety refers to the condition of generalised anxiety dogs display when their owners or human companions leave them alone, I.e. when leaving for work in the morning or simply popping out the house to do the groceries. Just like with humans, separation anxiety in dogs is at its core a behavioural issue that manifests itself in physical symptoms. Common triggers include:

 

  • Being alone for the first time – after spending plenty of time previously around their companions – whether human or other pets.

  • Sudden changes in their daily routine.

  • A new owner or living environment.

  • Trauma or a bad experience from a previous time left alone.

 

Common symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs 

Every dog is different, with some more at ease when their owner leaves the house, whilst others will run to the door the moment you pick up the car keys. However, it’s worth keeping in mind these common symptoms of separation anxiety, as opposed to simply having a highly excitable pet:

 

  • Prolonged barking or vocalisation whenever you leave the house – the kind that raises your neighbour’s attention.

  • Prolonged pacing.

  • Attempting to escape your property – through doors, windows or by jumping the fence.

  • Peeing or pooing inside your house (despite toilet training).

  • Destructive behaviours – like scratching/chewing walls, furniture and household items.

  • Refusing to eat until you return home.

 

Soothing their minds: Ways to ease your dogs Separation Anxiety

So how can you treat this common condition? The good news is Separation Anxiety in dogs, just like many behavioral issues is highly treatable, although we warn it could take some patience. For more challenging cases, help is available from the RSPCA’s Pet Behaviour Services. Here’s our top tips:

 

  • Create a safe space for your furry friend: Good pet parenting advice in general, creating a space where your furry friend feels safe and comfortable is the first step to treating their separation anxiety. Whether that’s a cosy doggy bed beside a big window or a quiet corner in your bedroom, having a place like this allows them to rest and take their mind off other things. 😊

 

  • Exercise is your friend! Another foundation for a happy and healthy pet – giving your dog at least 30 mins of daily exercise (ideally before you leave the house) is also a great way to ease their anxiety, by burning off excess energy and helping them relax in your temporary absence.

 

  • Toys & treats: Apart from leaving a full bowl of water and the appropriate dog food, considering giving your furry friend interactive toys to keep their mind occupied while you’re gone. This could be anything from a puzzle toy, snuffle mat, treat-dispensing toys to slow feeders. Petstock have a great variety on that note.

 

  • Calmy leave and return home: Now for the moment of truth – when you actually leave your house. The advice here is to prepare to walk through your front door as calmy and quietly as possible (easier said than done when you’re in a rush). If your dog acts very excited or is actively seeking your attention, calmy ignore them, although if they are highly anxious (I.e. pacing up and down, scratching or chewing household objects) it’s important to acknowledge them and proceed with your plans. When returning home, command them to ‘sit’ and reward them with a pat or treat once they calm down. This will help them associate your desired behaviour with a positive response.

 

  • Gradually increase their time alone: Another handy tip is to gradually increase your dog’s time away from you whilst you’re still at home. Once they’re used to this, follow up with leaving them alone for short periods of time whilst you leave the actual house – I.e. by going for a walk around the block. Giving them a chewy treat before you go will not only keep them occupied, but show them that alone time can also be rewarding! 😊

 

  • Mix up your leaving routine: Apart from leaving your departures as low key as possible, another way to ease separation anxiety is to vary your leaving routine so your dog doesn’t become anxious prior to you actually walking out the front door. Perhaps get ready in a different room and leave the house via a different exit from time to time.

 

  • Consider Doggy Day Care: Our final tip, if you’re regularly away from home for long periods of time, there’s always the option of booking your furry friend into our Doggy Day Care program at Pets Country Club, Elcho Park Lara. Run by our animal loving team members who know how to have a good time, Doggy Day Care will be their home away from home, where they’ll spend days amongst their friends, playing with fun and interactive toys amongst other activities!

 

Keen to find out more about the Pets Country Club at Elcho Park Lara? Contact our friendly team of professional animal lovers on (03) 5282 1286.

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