Many of us had to deal with a change in perspective as the COVID lockdowns had us working from home. On the bright side, we got to spend a lot more time with our furry pals. Many people are relieved to see the world slowly getting back to something resembling normal. However, seeing us leave for work can lead to anxiety in our pets. Seeing you leave the house every morning can lead to separation anxiety in our furry friends. Psychologists tell us that separation anxiety may develop due to a specific event or an abrupt change in surroundings or schedule.
How Do I Figure Out If My Dog Has Separation Anxiety?
In dogs, separation anxiety isn't difficult to spot. It usually presents as distress and may be characterized by destructive behavior when you're away from your furry best friend. Some of the more common signs you'll encounter include howling, barking, licking, panting, chewing, pacing, and having accidents inside the house. Each dog's mental state is different, and dealing with separation anxiety needs to be tailored to your pet. In this article, we'll examine how you can prepare your dog for when you head back to work to ease their separation anxiety.
Scents Can Calm A Dog
When we think about aromatherapy, we typically see it as something humans do. However, did you know that healthy, calming scents can also soothe your dog? Both dogs and humans have similar mental states, and the calming effect of certain smells like lavender oil can be useful to help your best friend relax when you're not about. Luckily, several companies produce delivery systems conducive to use with a dog, including sprays, collars, wipes, and oil diffusers. Dog appeasing pheromones are also another crucial advancement in pet aromatherapy you may want to look into.
Toys Take Their Mind Off Their Worries
At its heart, separation anxiety is a worry that you won't come back to them. However, dogs can throw their concerns into play. Something as simple as a treat dispenser can help your dog cope with your absence by giving them something to occupy themselves with. Since these toys are a lot more fun to play with than chewing on your furniture, you can use them to manage some of your dog's destructive tendencies. Toys are no proper replacement for your presence, but they are useful in calming your dog's nerves by giving him or her something to do when you're not around.
Consider Calming Supplements
If your dog is hyperactive when you're away and starts destroying their toys, then you might want to look at introducing some calming supplements. Several calming supplements for dogs are commercially available with typical ingredients, including valerian root and tryptophan. Some dogs are adamantly against taking any sort of supplement. However, there's also a way to deal with this problem. Royal Canin has produced a special diet to help calm dogs that combined hydrolyzed milk protein with tryptophan. The tryptophan results in an increased production of serotonin - the feel-good chemical.
Another option is to look at probiotic cultures for your dog's intestinal tract. Studies have shown that certain probiotics in mammals can significantly impact the animal's mental state. Purina Proplan's Calming Care probiotic comes in the form of a powder that you can sprinkle on your dog's food. The active ingredient is known as BL999 and helps as a calming agent when your dog consumes it. However, calming supplements and oils don't always work, and you may have to change your tactics.
Small Enclosures and Familiar Surroundings
Some dogs don't respond to oils, probiotics, or any of the above methods. In such a case, you have a few options available to you. Calming your dog might require something as simple as getting them a comfortable place where they can feel safe and protected. Part of their separation anxiety is that you, their protector, is disappearing. To help them cope with your absence, you could order a calming pet bed that will give them a nice, quiet spot to reflect while they wait for you to come home.
In other cases, you can look at crate training. Crate training gives your dog a small, enclosed space that they can feel safe and protected within. However, this method does come with its own caveats. Some dogs may not react well to being in a small enclosed space, and they may act out. Instead of reducing your pet's anxiety, you might inadvertently increase it. An alternative option is investing in thunder shirts. These are designed for dogs who are afraid of storms and may have the sort of safe, calming effect you need to keep your dog happy when you leave for work.
Be Aware of Visual Cues
Dogs are visual animals, and they can tie things together quite effectively. Because of their ability to link cause and effect, they might see a visual cue and associate it with you leaving the house. Innocuous things like picking up your keys or your cell phone may provoke an anxiety attack in your furry friend because they know you're leaving them behind. Limiting the incidence of these visual cues can help to calm your dog down. Being mindful of how your behavior may trigger an episode goes a long way to reducing them altogether.
Severe Anxiety May Need Medication
Unfortunately, not all pups respond to therapy, and some may require medication. It's vital that you don't try to administer this medication without a trained veterinarian's advice. Anxiety medication for dogs is similar to what we as humans use to control our own anxiety. Clomipramine and fluoxetine are the most common, FDA-approved anxiety medications that pups respond to. However, these medications take time to act. It may be as much as a month before your puppy gets over his or her anxiety ultimately. Dogs are human's best friend because they are always there for us. The least we can do is help them cope with their stress when we need to leave the house. These methods allow us to give back to our selfless dogs in an essential way.