My pet sitter Sally made a mistake by taking Tempest on without the proper vetting in terms of a meet and greet beforehand like she usually does with new dog clients. Tempest’s humans were in a pinch and Sally said she’d help them out. They just dumped the little wagger off and were out of there like a shot to Maui for ten days.
Tempest is nervy.
“Separation anxiety,” Sally says.
Didn’t you catch what they named her?
Thank the Lord that Sally is a pro handler. There was only minor damage to her home. The outdoor screen was ripped to shreds and there was one call from the next-door neighbor for out-of-control barking. For a very long ten days of dealing with a psycho-dog though, that was pretty good.
Are you pulling your hair out because your wagger has separation anxiety and you can’t leave them alone without expensive, time consuming, relationship busting consequences?
Here are just a few signs that your dog has separation anxiety.
Signs of separation anxiety
- Complaints from the neighbors about barking or other bad behavior when you are gone
- Escape artistry: diggin’ holes under fences; trashing gates
- Furniture ripped apart, doors and screens scratched up, trash bins tipped, plants and yards dug up and other general mayhem and signs of bad behavior
- Neurotic repetitive OCD-like behavior—licking fur off, biting themselves
- Pooping and peeing inappropriately
- Not eating, changes in appetite
If you’ve adopted your pet, you don’t necessarily know what traumas they may have dealt with in their life before you, and it may be very frightening for your wagger to be left alone. Maybe they think you will be gone forever and that’s super scary. Or, sometimes things in your life or home may make your wagger feel insecure. Or maybe, your wagger is simply spoiled or bored.
If your dog is struggling, there are things you can do to help them get through their anxiety. It takes a lot of work and patience and regularity, if you are dealing with separation anxiety in a pooch. But, if you are willing to put in the time and effort, your wagger can heal from whatever it is that is getting their goat (so to speak).
Strategies for dealing with a dog with separation anxiety:
- Routine and regularity—get on a regular schedule for meals and exercise and keep your routines as regular as possible, too.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise—wear the son of a gun out (of course, take into consideration any medical conditions and appropriateness for the breed).
- Mentally stimulating toys—toys that challenge or delight them and take up their attention when you are gone. A Kong is a good option; Also, you might consider getting them a big ol’ raw bone to gnaw on (Large knuckles/joints are good, nothing small that they can swallow).
- Keep the environment as regular as possible—sometimes separation anxiety can sprout from significant changes in your home, if someone has moved out or in, or if you’ve moved homes, for example. Sometimes these changes are unavoidable, but get your home into a routine and enforce a calm, regular environment as quickly as you can.
- Medication—you can talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication if your wagger’s symptoms are over the top and you are having difficulty coping.
- Ignore your dog—yep, that’s right. Don’t make a big fuss before you leave or when you come home. If the dog shows bad behavior when you are with them, ignore, ignore, ignore. More, on ignoring from Dr. Juli Potter at Ask.Vet in her article Separation Anxiety in Dogs.
- Training—Again, Dr. Potter says to have all interactions with your dog in the form of command, response and reward for about a month. That’s it on the interactions, otherwise ignore your dog. As Dr. Potter says, “Ignoring is important because it helps reduce your dog’s dependence on you. Ignoring also helps prevent you from rewarding anxiety and other unwanted behaviors.”
One more thing, Dr. Potter says that punishment won’t work. When it comes to separation anxiety, you are dealing with issues of anxiety. Punishment can’t fix anxiety and can actually make it worse.
As for poor Tempest, Sally gave her humans these tips when they returned all tanned and glowy and relaxed, and they were very grateful. Tempest’s humans are going to get Tempest on a program so that this little wagger can rest easy, knowing that vacations do not equate to abandonment.