Activities for Dogs with Separation Anxiety
Dog Separation Anxiety Overview
Separation anxiety amongst dogs is pretty common, although many pet owners often don't recognize it from the behavior they are experiencing. Many pets seem to go on a rampage the second their owner leaves the house by chewing up furniture, scratching up doors, destroying windows and soiling floors. Owners tend to believe that it’s just a matter of training, but many of these misbehaviors could very well be separation anxiety. We’re going to give you a few simple ways that might help you deal with separation anxiety and hope you see a difference the next time you leave the house.
There are different levels of separation anxiety which often depend on the breed of the dog, how long the behavior has been present and the way in which the owner has handled or reacted to it. There are some dogs that have extreme cases of separation anxiety which no amount of activity or distraction will remedy. In these scenarios, you’re going to need the help of a professional to desensitize and counter condition your dog. This article discusses ways to help treat low to moderate separation anxiety.
Keep Your Dog's Mind Busy
Often dogs suffer from separation anxiety because there isn't much to keep their minds occupied while you're away. Instead, they obsess on your absence and are anxious for you to return so they can get some much-needed attention. Engaging their minds while you’re not home is necessary to keep them stimulated so they are less likely to wreck your home. A stream of new toys is one of the best ways to keep them occupied. Chew toys, bones, and squeaky toys are sometimes enough to provide an adequate distraction while you’re out.
One thing that often worked with a Springer Spaniel I owned, which had severe separation anxiety, was to take a Kong toy and fill the hollow part with peanut butter or treats. He would end up spending hours trying to paw and lick out the inside of the toy. You can even freeze some foods inside the Kong so that they last even longer. The pawing and licking will help keep your dog’s mind off your absence. If possible, it’s beneficial to give your dog this treat and then actually sneak out of the house. If he doesn’t like the Kong, there are lots of other effective toys on the market designed with anxious dogs in mind. There are also various treat dispensers that make your dog put some effort into to get them out.
Exercise Is Key
Taking your dog for a vigorous walk before you leave also takes the edge off separation anxiety, as they will burn some calories and may actually decide to sleep for a while once you're gone. If you don't have the time for a long walk, play some Frisbee or tug of war with him for twenty minutes before you leave. It’s important to make your dog’s experience positive. If you come home to little or no damage, be sure to reward and praise him. However, if you do come home to complete and utter destruction it’s important not to punish your dog or get emotional as this can actually exacerbate the condition. By keeping your dog’s mind active he's less likely to rip up those curtains. Some owners have found that rubbing some aromatherapy oil into your dog’s bedding or using a diffuser can often help to calm them down.