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How to Help Your Dog With Separation Anxiety

 

 

Isolation Distress and Separation Anxiety in Dogs

When you bring home your new dog from the JSPCA it will be a massive environmental change for you both, adjusting to a new home and routine can be difficult for dogs, and with this comes the unease of being away from familiar things for them too, they will likely quickly develop attachments to you and your family members, you may be looking to quickly adapt your dog to your work routine or you may be staying at home with them and getting them used to short periods of separation while you do your shopping or pop out for a coffee, either way our main goal is to use this inactive time to teach our dogs that being alone is a pretty cool and exciting thing to do, if you were not there where would your dog spend its day? would he be in the office or would he be lounging in the living room dreaming his best rabbit catching dreams? Just because we are there does not mean that they need to be with us all the time, or that we need to disrupt their routine.

Providing some tasty options and exciting puzzles in the living room, or designated room of your choice and giving your dog periods of time to settle in there can turn aloneness into an exciting adventure that they want to be a part of.

 

We all worry about how the stress of us leaving the home will affect our dog, but had you ever considered that our stress might contribute to our dog’s feelings too? A 2019 study showed that dogs can mirror our stress, the study showed that high Cortisol levels in owners matched raised levels in their dogs, so let’s take a moment to relax prepare and set our dogs up to be successful, because after all prevention and early indication can make all the difference.

Firstly, recognising the signs of anxiety quickly, can make for early intervention.

 

Minor signs of separation distress

  • Barking, or whining when left.
  • Seeming very quiet and sad, or very over the top jumping, mouthing helicopter tail when you return.
  • Following you everywhere, and unhappy if they are behind a closed door.

 

For the above keep calm and carry on with slow introductions to the games and methods we have suggested in this article, slowly let them adapt to new routines with short times alone with toys and sniffari as much as you can.

Pheromones are a great way to introduce those feelings of calm around the home, a recommended pheromone product for dogs would be Adaptil. It contains “dog appeasing pheromones (DAP)” which are naturally released by female dogs to provide comfort and security for her puppies.

DAP have been clinical proven to reduce signs of separation related problems, including:

  • Reduction in destructive behaviours
  • Reduction in house soiling
  • Reduction in barking

For Separation anxiety, the Adaptil diffuser can be plugged in approximately 2-3 days before you go back to work.

It is best to plug the diffuser into a room the dog uses a lot and to use it for at least a month.

 

Severe Signs of distress or Separation anxiety in Dogs when left, if seen seek advice from Our Organisation.

  • Lack of appetite, or not able to eat unless owner present.
  • Inappropriate elimination, defecating or urinating in areas that are abnormal of the animal, especially when separated from the owner or after a period of being left, also changes in faeces such as loose stools or diarrhoea.
  • Grooming much more than usual, chewing at legs nails or tail.
  • Vocalising more than usual, becoming sensitive to noise or other stimulus more jumpy or easily startled.
  • Following the owners around the home unable to sleep or will wake as soon as owner moves out of eye shot.
  • distressed when doors shut, and they cannot access owner.
  • Destructive behaviour when left or after owner returns.

 

If you see any signs that concern you about your dog’s behaviour, and believe them to be suffering stress or anxiety around being left you can reach out to us at The JSPCA for help and advice, we can give you information about Behaviourists and Trainers who can work with you and your dog through any issues they might have using ethical and effective methods to help alleviate anxiety issues, it is also highly recommended that animals receive a Veterinary check to make sure there are no underlying health issues contributing to their behaviour.

 

 

The real key is to start to behave at the beginning as you mean to go on/ where possible

Build a routine that suits you and meets your dogs needs well and stick to it as closely as possible.

Develop a routine that suits your long term needs and stick with it!

Try to pop out as and when you can even if its to go and buy a coffee rather than make one at home (because owners deserve treats too!), regular short trips away can help our dog to begin to desensitise to being left alone, make sure your dog has a safe place to be in which they have (if you feel your dog may be distressed then refer to the Separation anxiety section, before embarking on any training at home!)

When thinking Dog think Scent!

Remember that dogs are not only very susceptible to visual cues, but also olfactory (scent cues) you can use comforting scent to make your dog feel more secure by leaving a recently worn piece of clothing when you leave.

Let’s teach our dogs that being alone is a pretty cool and exciting thing to do!

There are so many fantastic toys and resources for enriching our dogs time at home, making alone time fun you can ask at your local pet shop for what the best toys are for getting your dog to engage in fun puzzle time, and release happy endorphins.

The following games are our favourite for encouraging confident, content dogs and happy owners!.

  1. Sniffari

 

Scent is such an important part of our dogs world it is how they gain information, and also a great way to access feel good endorphins via the seeking system ( the body’s internal reward system) sniffari is a game of hide and seek for your dogs nose, we can scatter the dogs food allowance around a room, or use a snuffle mat or rolled up towel with treats folded inside, if you are not keen on Nose Art on your floor boards and furnishings.

 

 

 

  • 2 The Rewarding Place

 

The rewarding place is all about positive associations.

If your dog loves to snuggle near to you it is likely he will seek out the thing that holds your strongest scent to relax on, this is usually the sofa or bed, however when we are present in the home the scent will be stronger and feel nicer where you are.

Step 1 Take an old coat or piece of clothing such as a T Shirt you need to wear it for a period of time before you start the game, lay it in the room you are in where the dog likes to settle, place a long lasting chew like a Yaks Milk chew on top and encourage your dog to come and find it, some dogs will settle on the rewarding place straight away to chew their new found prize, and some will take the chew and move away, either way with repetition each day the dog will start to make the association with relaxing chew time.

Step 2

Once your dog is relaxed practice leaving the room for short periods of time, see if they return to the relaxing place for comfort with their chew.

Step 3

Put the relaxing place in the room you wish your dog to settle in start by staying in the room, make sure to bring a book to read we want the dog to be learning to relax on their own rather than interact