When dogs are left alone, they can get stressed or anxious waiting for their owner to return. It can be an upsetting experience for dogs who aren’t used to being by themselves for extended periods. Dogs aren’t accustomed to their best friend leaving them, so it’s important to help your dog understand that this is a normal part of their life and that you’re not leaving forever.
How Can You Tell If a Dog Has Separation Anxiety?
Separation Anxiety can manifest itself into a range of behaviours:
- Urination or defecation
- Destructive tendencies (chewing furniture, carpets or destroying toys)
- An upset stomach
- Barking or howling
- Whimpering or crying
- Nervous, non-stop pacing
- Searching from room to room
- Excessive drooling
- Trying to escape
Our canine companions can become anxious or depressed when their owners leave, often barking or whimpering within minutes –– or even seconds –– of your departure. You might recognise patterns of separation anxiety if you leave your home for a couple of minutes, only to find your dog is greeting you like you’ve been away for years.
Why Do Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety in dogs is a complex issue. There can be multiple reasons why a dog might develop anxious tendencies when their owner leaves them. Some of these include:
- Moving families: Being rehomed, being moved to a shelter or, even worse, being abandoned can be an incredibly traumatic experience for a dog. It’s very upsetting for them if their family goes away since they’re not capable of understanding why they’ve been left alone. This can be a trigger for separation anxiety in later life, as they fear that their new owners might be going away forever any time they leave the house.
- Moving house: Moving away from a familiar area can be jarring for your dog. They won’t be used to the sights, smells and sounds of their new surroundings for at least a few weeks. If they’re left alone in this period, it could lead to the onset of separation anxiety.
- Changing schedules: If you suddenly get a new job where you have to leave your dog at home for long periods, your dog might struggle to adjust to not having you around. This can cause undue stress for your beloved companion, so making subtle adjustments to your schedule where possible will make life a lot easier for them.
- A change in their family: If someone your dog is close to is no longer around, this can deeply affect your dog. A separation or a bereavement can be upsetting for your dog too, so bear your dog in mind if someone goes away. They need to be consoled and looked after during difficult times. Try and stick to their usual routine as much as possible and keep their mind occupied with exercise and games.
How Can You Help a Dog with Separation Anxiety?
One of the key strategies for dealing with separation anxiety in dogs is counter-conditioning treatment, which can help to change the dog’s perception of being alone. If they feel afraid or panicked when their owner leaves, counter-conditioning can be effective in helping your dog relax by creating more positive associations of being alone. This could include giving them food, treats or a toy when they’re about to be left, making them associate the food or toy with the owner leaving.
In principle, the dog will then learn that the owner leaving means they get something nice, mitigating feelings of stress or anxiety. If your dog has more severe separation anxiety, they’ll need a much more intricate programme to help them become more accustomed to being left in the house by themselves.
Start with short periods of separation and gradually increase the time the dog is left alone. This can be a long process, but be patient with your dog and help them learn that they aren’t being left alone forever each time you leave.
Can Diet Help Reduce Anxiety in Dogs?
Fish, including salmon, has many health benefits for dogs. It contains L-tryptophan, a compound that is believed to reduce anxiety in dogs. A salmon-rich diet may help to improve your dog’s symptoms and mitigate their feelings of anxiousness. Angell Petco’s Superior Adult complete dog food contains a large amount of freshly prepared salmon and will provide your dog with a balanced diet, naturally high in L-tryptophan