Since Cali was a puppy, she has suffered from extreme separation anxiety of my husband. Most dogs with this disorder bark until the neighbors hate you or destroy your furniture, but Cali takes it to a whole new level.
I remember one time I was in the dog park with my husband and Cali when my husband decided to drive to the deli down the block for sandwiches for a few minutes.
When Cali saw Lazer leaving, she no longer cared about my existence. At full speed, she jumped over the 5 ft dog park fence, ran into the busy Brooklyn intersection, and jumped into Lazer’s pickup truck window as he was making a U-turn(which was about 8 ft off the ground).
Since that terrifying incident, Cali has learned all sorts of tricks to try and keep everyone together. If we leave her alone in the car, she’ll lean on the horn until we come back inside.
Whenever we stay in a hotel, we have to lock Cali in the bathroom and bungee cord the door closed because she figured out how to use door handles. Imagine getting a call from the hotel because there is a loose pitbull running around the 12th floor desperately looking for her family. (As scary as it was, the hotel security footage was priceless.)
What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Separation anxiety in dogs is when a dog becomes severely distressed that their owner/family is not present. This can be in any environment whether it be the car, a hotel, or at home.
This disorder usually is triggered when a dog notices the signs of their family beginning to leave (putting on makeup, grabbing your jacket and grabbing your keys) and can last for hours until you arrive home.
Scientists aren’t really sure as to why some dogs have separation anxiety while others don’t. Though they have seen that this is a major disorder with shelter dogs because they’ve been left before.
Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety may have some or all of the following behaviors:
- Howling or yelping when you’re gone
- Destruction of property (pillows, couches, drywall, etc)
- Excessive drooling/panting
- Signs of trying to escape (broken crate, scratch marks on the door)
- Bathroom accidents even when fully housetrained
Not only is it sad to think about our dogs suffering because they miss our presence so much, it can also be dangerous to their wellbeing.
Many dogs injure themselves by breaking out of crates or eating something they’re not supposed to. And we learned the hard way what an anxious dog can do to your house and themselves.
When Cali kept eating out of the garbage out of anxiety, we decided to keep her in the crate while we were gone so she would be safe. Well guess what? She ate the metal door off the crate to get out and get a view of the window to see when we were coming home. By some miracle, she was fine. But situations like this go wrong far too often.
Over the past 5 years of having a dog with severe separation anxiety, I’ve found that these five tricks really helped Cali. Hopefully they can help your dog too!
Tire Them Out
Before you’re planning to leave the house, try playing with your dog for a few minutes before you leave. Playing fetch in the backyard is a quick and easy way to tire out your dog. Taking them for a quick walk is even better.
When your dog is tired, they are naturally more relaxed and are more likely to sleep through the time you’re away.
Give Them a Calming Supplement
Did you know that calming supplements aren’t just for adults? That’s right. There are dozens of different supplements that are now made just for pooches with anxiety.
Since I like to use more natural products, I decided to try VetraPet’s Hemp Oil for stress and anxiety. I have to say that not only did these drops help Cali with her separation anxiety, it also helped her when it came to the anxiety of meeting new dogs for the first time. (Cali is very suspicious of everyone.)
It also helped her with her nervous paw chewing, excessive tail chasing, and her desperate yelping whenever we would leave the house or car.
Many people in the 1600+reviews also said this helped their dog with aggression issues and also insomnia, though I haven’t tried it for those reasons on my own yet. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, I would definitely give natural calming supplements a try.
Don’t Make Leaving a Big Deal
Most owners of dogs with separation anxiety tend to make a big fuss out of leaving. Their dogs can feel that energy which makes their anxiety worse.
Telling your dog in a baby voice that you’re going to miss him as you’re squishing his face is the best way to trigger your dog’s anxiety once you walk out the door. Instead, just leave. Don’t make it super obvious. And as hard as it is do not say goodbye to your dog. (No matter how sad it seems.) Walking out the door in a calm manner is a way to skip the trigger of saying goodbye.
When you come back, don’t greet your dog but instead pretend like you just ran out to the car to get something and you were only gone for 30 seconds instead of 8 hours. This trick really helped us when it came to Cali’s separation anxiety.
Keep Them Busy
One common result of having a dog with separation anxiety is that they tend to be destructive. When we started to leave Cali at home alone without the crate, we would come back to something totally destroyed.
Not one, but two full couches were torn to shreds with couch stuffing all over the living room. We were pretty furious at the time. But it shows how much suffering a dog can go through with extreme separation anxiety.
Luckily, there are several toys that you can give your dog while you’re away to keep them busy and tire them out. For strong chewers like Cali, I recommend the Black Kong toy. The red one doesn’t seem to be as strong as we always come back to see it fully shredded.
I like to fill the Kong with peanut butter and stick it in the freezer. A few minutes before we leave I’ll give it to her. This has helped tremendously with her destructive behavior.
If your dog isn’t as much of a chewer, there are countless mental games for dogs to keep them busy. My favorite is Sniffz’s Snuffle Mat. It has one main snuffle mat, which has felt pieces of grass for your dog to sniff through and find treats.
Snuffle mats are a great way for a dog to do nosework. Which is basically a way of fine tuning their sense of smell. (Something wolves do most of the night.) It also has 5 extension puzzles that roll up and are placed around the main puzzle through elastic loops.
This puzzle keeps Archie’s brain working for hours and he always sleeps for 3-4 hours straight after using it.
Turn On Dog TV
Many dogs with separation anxiety really stress out when it comes to unfamiliar noises. This can especially happen when you move to a new place, or if you’re bringing home your dog for the first time.
A great way to combat this is by turning on Dog TV on YouTube. These 8 hour long videos are usually different calming scenes like the beach or the park and have nice calming music to block out any unfamiliar noises stressing out your pooch.
Separation anxiety is a common problem for dogs. Unfortunately, I think it’s impossible to completely get rid of your dog’s anxiety. But I do think with these tips and tricks you can greatly reduce their anxiety and make them feel more comfortable while they’re waiting for you (their best friend in the whole wide world) to get home.
Want more tips and tricks on dog health and training? See more here!