It’s believed that around 40% of dogs in Australia may suffer from anxiety at some stage in their lives. However, anxiety is a broad term; there are four main types:
- Separation anxiety is when your dog becomes anxious when separated from their owners. An increasing number of dogs may be experiencing this type of anxiety because of the pandemic. Owners who have been working from home may now be returning to work.
- General anxiety can go unrecognised and it may be difficult to determine the actual cause.
- Environmental anxiety is triggered by certain places (a classic one is the vet clinic) or by environmental factors like sounds. Thunder and fireworks are common triggers.
- Social anxiety is triggered when a dog encounters other people or animals. Typically, the cause tends to be a past trauma or poor socialisation.
Spotlight on Separation Anxiety
Given that separation anxiety in dogs is fairly widespread, we asked Resident Field Day Vet Emily Turner to share her tips on how owners can address this.
“Does your dog bark, whine or cause complete destruction in the yard when they are home alone…
“These are all common signs of separation anxiety, a common behavioural issue that can become very distressing for both the pooch and the owner. Every time you leave the home, your dog can become a ball of stress and anxiety.
“A key way your dog navigates their day is by watching your daily routine. They remember every move you make before you leave for the day. They recognise the exact noise of your car pulling up or your footsteps coming down the driveway when you arrive home.
“This is super sweet and being greeted by a very excited dog is as good as it gets. However, it’s important to recognise that your dog is becoming more and more stressed as the days go by, waiting for your return.
“The best thing you can do to help them relax during the day and not just wait for you to come home is to mix up your daily routine that they know so well.”
Tips to manage your dog’s stress
Emily suggests a few actions you can take to help mix up your daily routine and lessen your dog’s stress.
- Try putting your shoes on before breaky and not just before you leave the house or go out the front door.
- Leave the house and then come back in for a minute or two now and then.
- When you come home try not to give your dog too much attention right away. They will see an instant pat and hug as a sign that you want them to be waiting anxiously for them all day. Pop your bag down, do a few things, and then give your dog a big hello.
“Little changes will help your dog to stop focusing on when you are coming back and enjoy their day at home.
“Toys can also help your dog stay occupied during the day, try using slow feeder lick mats, which you can sprinkle with the Field Day Cool Calm & Collected meal topper to keep them occupied for a little longer.”
Other ways to help ease separation anxiety include playing and exercising your dog before you leave the home. This way your doggo may start to associate your leaving with fun playtimes.
The Humane Society suggests using a word or cue that signals to your dog you’re leaving but will be back. For example, I use “guard the house” and this seems to let me pooch know I’m going out, but I won’t be long.
If your dog gets very destructive when you go out, you may consider confining them to a safe room – where they can do less damage.
Desensitizing your dog will take time, so it’s important to be patient. Nonetheless, you may want to chat to your vet about medication that can help reduce your dog’s anxiety. However, this shouldn’t be a long-term solution. Instead, you may wish to consider behavioural therapy.
What attempts have you made to reduce your dog’s separation anxiety?