As families with school-aged children are set to go back to school after the summer holidays, dogs in these households might experience various levels of separation anxiety. ‘As my home becomes quiet and empty for a large part of the day, will my dog get depressed’? Something that several pet parents are thinking about.
To tackle the sudden change in daily routine Dr Brett Levitzke, CVM & CMO at Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group Brooklyn has shared signs and symptoms of separation anxiety. As well as tips and tricks to help quell dog depression and associated behaviours that they might experience.
What can trigger separation anxiety in dogs?
Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset due to separation from people and family members to whom they are attached. With school-aged children being home more often during summer months this attachment increases dramatically.
“Any abrupt change in routine can trigger a dog’s anxiety. Dogs lack the concept of time. So, a change in routine that leaves them separated from people they’ve grown accustomed can cause severe behavioural issues when left alone,” said Dr Levitzke. “These behavioural issues can cause anxiety within the pet owners themselves. So, it’s best to act quickly and take simple steps to ease a dog’s anxiety, as well as your own.”
According to Levitzke some signs and symptoms of separation anxiety include prolonged howling and barking, unwanted chewing, excessive pacing, using the bathroom indoors and attempting to escape.
How to tackle separation anxiety?
To tackle separation anxiety in dogs, Dr Levitzke recommends pet owners to try one or more of the following tips to help ease a dog’s distress.
Prepare frozen peanut butter stuffed kongs
Prepare Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, or some other treat to provide your dog a distraction from stress. Freezing the Kong will make the activity last significantly longer and stimulate your dog mentally. Be sure to put the toy away when you get home, as this will eventually signal to your dog that your departure is routine and you will return.
Find a day care or sitter
Enrolling your dog at an animal day care for a few days in a week can be beneficial, as time with other dogs and people may help reduce anxiety. Scheduling a stop-in or routine walk by a licensed dog walker may provide a dose of companionship your dog might need during the day.
Also read: Why every dog lover isn’t a pet sitter?
Take your dog for an early morning walk
Establishing a routine of taking your dog for a 30-minute walk early in the morning will provide plenty of exercise and hopefully tire them out.
Plan dog-friendly activities
It’s important that when your family returns home that they spend quality time with your dog. When planning out-of-home activities or places to eat, research to find dog-friendly places to take your dog along.
Play background noise
Consider playing talk radio or similar programmes that give your dog a sense that someone is with them, and they are not completely alone. As dogs grow accustomed to the daily noise of households in the summer, simulating that could help ease their stress.
Consider installing a camera
Because some pets’ anxieties aren’t destructive, it can be difficult to see the true stress your departure has on your dog. Having a camera in the common areas that you can check throughout the day will give you a better sense of your dog’s wellbeing.
Consult a veterinary doctor, if required
If your dog’s separation anxiety and destructive behaviours persist, it may be time to consult a veterinarian. In some cases, a dog’s anxiety might be due to an underlying medical issue. Your local veterinarian may also have a few tricks of their own.