Many dogs endure separation anxiety whenever their person leaves the house without them. That anxiety can manifest in shredded furniture, neighbors complaining about barking or howling and daring escape attempts. The worst part for any dog lover is knowing that these behaviors can arise from canine stress and unhappiness. Dogs are pack animals and you are pack leader, so it should be no surprise if your absence is difficult for your dog.
Severe cases may call for a visit to the veterinarian to determine the nature of the distress and address it. But if your dog’s separation anxiety is mild, there are a number of ways to help him stay calm and happy.
Try breaking up your own routine to downplay the significance of your departure and return. Behaviorists note that dogs sometimes interpret dramatic human goodbyes and greetings as a sign that being separated is a big deal. Some dogs become anxious if they hear their person jangle keys or see them putting on shoes. Your dog has a better chance of staying calm if you do.
Music, not noise
A recent study from Scottish SPCA and the University of Glasgow supported the idea that classical music can calm dogs. You can even get music compilations that are specifically geared toward canine calming. However, the same study showed that other types of music had the opposite effect. The Humane Society reports that radio, TV, static or white noise is unlikely to help.
If your dog loves to fetch, you can entertain him with a product like iFetch, an automated ball launcher. Physical activity is an antidote to anxious behaviors.
WiFi security cameras can keep you connected to your home no matter where you are. These cameras not only allow for two-way audio communication, but also enable you to view your home remotely from your smartphone to check on your dog. Watching your dog’s behavior remotely can also help you determine what works best for keeping your dog calm.
Toys can keep your dog occupied and interested — a bored dog is more prone to anxiety and restlessness. Kong toys are durable and popular. If you stuff a Kong toy and give it to your dog as you leave, your dog may come to equate your departure with pleasure instead of anxiety.
Besides a Kong, there are many other interactive dog puzzle toys that utilize tempting treats as motivation to keep your dog engaged in “solving” the puzzle. Anything that keeps your dog’s energy focused away from destructive behaviors is going to be a helpful part of reducing anxiety.
Take your dog to work
This isn’t an option for everyone, but if you can why wouldn’t you? A recent study from Virginia Commonwealth University showed that having dogs at work reduces human work-related stress.
Calming over-the-counter products
Dog-appeasing pheromones (DAP) have been shown to reduce anxiety in some scientific studies. Products like a diffuser such as Comfort Zone with Adaptil can help dogs feel safe by mimicking natural pheromones.