What is separation anxiety?
Like us, dogs are social animals and being alone doesn’t come very naturally to them, which is why some may become anxious when spending time on their own.
Although dogs should never be left alone for long periods, some – especially puppies and new pets – may have difficulty dealing with even short periods.
Remember, you can contact us at Northlands Veterinary Hospital to discuss separation anxiety and how best to tackle it.
What are the signs?
Your dog may become very anxious as you prepare to leave the house, panting or pacing and trying to follow you as you leave, scratching at doors or the carpets. They may also whine, howl or bark.
The first 15 minutes will be the worst for your dog and signs of fear may be present where their heart rate and breathing increase. After this, they are likely to settle and chew something that carries your scent to make them feel secure.
When you return they will be extremely excitable and may want to follow you around the house.
How can I reduce separation anxiety?
It’s a good idea to get your dog used to short periods on their own from when they are very young. Choose an area to leave them in, but don’t only have them in this room when they are on their own as they will associate this with isolation and you want them to feel comfortable.
You may want to use a stair gate to keep them in this space as it will allow them to still see and hear what’s going on elsewhere in the house. Randomly leave your dog in this space with a tasty chew and carry on as usual for a few minutes. Gradually increase the time you leave them.
Make sure they have a comfortable bed, water and some chew toys, as chewing is a calming activity for them. You may also want to have a quiet radio on to prevent other noises from startling your dog.
Putting an item of your clothing in with them may make them feel more secure as they find their owner’s scent comforting.
For more advice on separation anxiety, Northlands’ head vet, Catherine, will be happy to help, so feel free to contact us.