Dogs, like humans, can suffer from feelings of anxiety. In some cases, this can manifest as separation anxiety, leading to destructive and uncomfortable behavior. But there are ways to soothe these anxious pets and maintain a healthy connection between dog and owner. In this article, we’ll look at the signs of separation anxiety, along with techniques to help soothe your affected pet.
1. Understanding Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety is one of the most common disturbances seen in dogs. It is a behavioral disorder, triggered by the dog’s extreme distress over being separated from its family or favorite person. Many think of this disorder as merely puppy-like behaviors, but it is far more serious and complex. Separation anxiety can cause significant distress for the dog and the families it lives with.
The signs of separation anxiety include:
- Barking and howling: Excessive vocalization after the owner leaves.
- House Soiling: Urinating and defecating, usually in inappropriate areas such as on the owner’s bed.
- Destruction: Chewing, digging, and scratching on doors or walls, usually in attempts to escape and reunite with the owner.
It is important to differentiate separation anxiety from other causes of distress. Some dogs become overly excited when their owners return home, known as “inappropriate greetings.” Other behaviors, such as barking at noises and visitors or jumping and stealing items, are usually not associated with separation anxiety.
2. Root Causes of Dog Separation Anxiety
Dogs experience separation anxiety when their owner leaves them alone for a period of time. It’s important to understand the root causes for this behavior so we can effectively address it.
- Changes in Environment: If your home or lifestyle has recently changed, new routines, visitors or even people living in the space can cause anxiety in dogs.
- Change in Ownership: A move to a new home, a new person in space, or even a change in family dynamics can all affect a dog’s mental health and lead to separation anxiety.
- Lack of Exercise: Dogs that receive little to no exercise are likely to develop separation anxiety due to build up of energy and boredom.
- Medical Conditions: Separation anxiety is sometimes caused by an underlying medical condition, such as a thyroid disorder or infection.
It may seem counterintuitive, but dogs undergoing separation anxiety often respond better to positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Teaching them basic commands, and providing them with interactive puzzles and toys can help reduce their anxiety levels. Additionally, a daily exercise routine and a secure, safe space to retreat can be equally beneficial in reducing their stress.
3. Coping Strategies for Easing Anxious Pets
When your pet is feeling anxious, the best course of action is to take proper and appropriate steps to alleviate their stress. Here are some coping strategies to help your pet with their anxiousness:
- Spend time with them: A consistent play or cuddle session can do wonders for an anxious pet. Spending time with your pet every day can help reduce their anxiousness and create a sense of security.
- Create a calming environment: Making sure your pet has a safe and peaceful spot to relax can help them with their anxiousness. Keep noisy distractions to a minimum and provide your pet with extra comfort and reassurance.
- Reward them: Positive reinforcement is a great way of teaching your pet to not be anxious. Offer them treats when they exhibit calm behavior to show them your approval.
It is also important to make sure that your pet is getting the right amount of exercise and nutrition that is best suited for their breed and size. Taking care of your pet’s everyday basic needs can help immensely in helping them with their anxiety.
4. Creating a Safe, Comforting Home Environment
Creating a safe and comforting environment is key to feeling at ease in your own home. Starting with the basics, consider the architecture of your house. To make your home a calming place, look for ways to redesign your space to maximize natural light and ventilation. Keep clutter to a minimum and prioritize comfortable furnishings that support a zen environment.
Breathe life into your home. Use plants, artwork, and aromatherapy products to brighten and liven up your home. Plants help purify the air and beauty adds a layer of subtle comfort. Consider adding an essential oil diffuser or incorporating scents like lavender or citrus to evoke positive emotions. Here are some other ways to create an inviting atmosphere:
- Abundant natural light
- Soft neutral colors
- Accents of bright colors
- Ambient lighting
- Calming background music
Think about how you can make improvements to your home space to maximize comfort. Investing in elements such as a yoga-mat or even an aromatherapy diffuser can make a big difference. Working on this effort of building a safe and comforting home gives you and your family a much-needed peace of mind.
As pet owners, it’s important to understand the signs and causes of separation anxiety in our canine friends. With the various techniques outlined in this article, preventing and soothing anxious symptoms can be achieved to make sure your pup is feeling relaxed and secure. The next step is to work on the root cause of any anxiety issues to ensure a long-lasting, calmer version of your four-legged friend. Remember, while our dogs can’t always communicate clearly, they’re always thankful for our understanding and attention. So, show them some love and watch as they reward you with more wags and cuddles!