With September around the corner and summer vacation coming to an end, it's almost time to turn on your alarm clocks and start sharpening your pencils. That’s right: it’s school season again!
Getting used to a new routine can be hard for everyone, including your pets. If you have been spending a lot of time around your dog for the past few months, leaving them home alone for many hours at a time can be a strenuous experience.
And while some dogs handle the switch relatively well, eager to relax and chill at home, others might need some extra help to get into the groove. Here are some ways to make sure your dog is as comfortable as possible whilst you get back to your daily routine.
Separation Anxiety & Isolation Anxiety
Before trying to look to resolve the issue, let’s talk about the issue itself: separation anxiety.
Why do dogs get separation anxiety?
For some dogs, being left alone for a long time can lead to signs of distress or destructive behavior such as loud barking and chewing on furniture. There is not a specific reason as to why separation anxiety develops in dogs or puppies, it is not breed specific nor is it necessarily because of the way that a dog is bred. So if your dog is getting nervous when left alone, don’t beat yourself up about it!
Regardless of how a puppy is coddled or trained, a dog’s reaction to isolation will differ greatly simply depending on how the dog’s personality is. Since we don’t know exactly what might cause dogs to be predisposed to developing this, the best thing to do is be alert and try to give them the help that they need as soon as possible.
Most Common Signs your Dog has Separation Anxiety
Each dog might manifest signs of anxiety differently, and depending on whether your dog has extreme separation anxiety or mild separation anxiety they will react to being alone in different ways.
However, there are still a number of symptoms that are common for a dog developing separation anxiety, such as:
- Loud barking and howling
- Urination and defecation
In some cases of severe separation anxiety in dogs some might engage in coprophagia, which is when a dog consumes some or all of their excrement out of anxiety.
Other not-as-common signs that your dog is dealing with separation anxiety are trembling, panting, excessive salivation or vomiting. Many of these behaviors, if left untreated or undealt with, can lead to self-injury. Hence, it is important to look for early signs of separation anxiety in dogs in order to deal with the issue as early as possible.
If you think your dog suddenly has separation anxiety make sure to react fast and accordingly!
Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The goal of anxiety dog training is to make them get used to, or perhaps even enjoy, being alone in the house, rather than punishing them for their behavior.
There are many different ways of solving separation anxiety in dogs, let’s go through some.
1. Practicing a routine.
Before you actually have to leave for the day in order to get back to work or school, it might be helpful to have a sort of “trial period” in order to get your dog used to the new schedule.
This would entail, for example, setting your alarm earlier and taking them out of walks at the same time you will during the school year. Changing their feeding schedule to match the one they’ll follow in September, or even just leaving them alone in the house or in their crate for longer periods of time.
Establishing a predictable routine for your dog might be extremely important to preventing separation anxiety. This way, they can expect when to get attention and treats and not be as confused when September comes around.
Not being at home as much might also mean that you won’t be able to take your dog out for walks as often as you used to. It is still important, however, to make sure your dog remains healthy and exercised.
Well-exercised dogs tend to be calmer and more relaxed, also preventing your dog from getting too bored or frustrated throughout the day.
3. Puzzle Toys
With dogs with bad separation anxiety being mentally stimulated throughout the day can be essential to reduce harmful or nervous behavior. If they are busy and mentally engaged, these puzzles will be able to keep them occupied and distracted for at least a few hours a day.
You can try to put treats inside of toys, like peanut butter or dog food, making them have to “work” for a reward. Another option would be to hide treats around the house, just make sure to make a game out of it!
If your dog is used to being around people and noises all day, suddenly being in silence can be a bit of a shock. You can try leaving music on during the day, just making sure that it isn’t anything too loud or that is causing them to be more anxious than calm.
5. Calming Sprays
There are also many products that are meant to help you deal with your dog’s anxiety and the aftermath of it. Using a dog calming spray before leaving to calm and relax your dog can help. There are also chew stop sprays that can discourage them from biting furniture, or urine stop spray to prevent them from peeing in certain areas around the house.
6. Doggy Daycare or Dog Walkers
Don’t forget that there are also many resources available to help take care of your dog while you are away. Perhaps you can consider looking to hire a dog walker during the school day, if you think that your dog might need some extra exercise or company.
Or you could even consider daycares! There are places that will let you drop off your dog throughout the day, making sure that they are accompanied and interacting with other dogs.
Each dog has different needs, and only you will know what is best for your fur puppy. As hard as it is saying goodbye in the morning, knowing that they are happy and well taken care of during your absence can be a source of relief for you as well.