Separation Anxiety in Dogs - Tips to Help Dogs Through Difficult Days
Helping Your Dog Through Separation Anxiety
Our dogs are more than cherished pets. More than one-third of all American families include a dog, and we treat them like part of our inner circle. It makes sense that a pack animal descended from wolves would enjoy a family situation. Out in the wild, a pack of wolves will spend every moment together. Their social organization is a lot like our family dynamic, with specific alpha leaders in charge, youngsters in training, and maybe some extended family to help care for them. It sounds familiar, right? Still, humans aren't wolves. Our alpha leaders leave home most of the day, and our youngsters find education away from the pack. So, many American dogs find themselves left alone for 10 hours a day, five days a week. It's no wonder they suffer from separation anxiety.
Below are some tips on how we can help our dogs through their separation anxiety.
How to Recognize Separation Anxiety in Dogs
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), signs of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- Urinating and defecating in the home
- Howling and barking
- Chewing, digging, and destruction
- Escape attempts
- Relentless pacing
- Coprophagia (poop-eating)
We still have a lot to learn about why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, losing a significant person or group of people in a dog's life can lead to it. Other less dramatic changes can also trigger the disorder.
At MushyBeds, we understand any dog may experience intense separation anxiety, even expensive purebreds! They don't need to be "mutts" or rescues to experience terrifying feelings of vulnerability. Our kids grow up and go to college. We may take on extra hours at work or have a new baby. Any dog can feel vulnerable and lonely, and take that frustration out on your furniture, walls, or carpeting.
Separation Anxiety vs. Isolation Anxiety in Dogs
Like their wolf ancestors, dogs are pack animals.
- Separation anxiety happens when a dog becomes stressed without the presence of a specific person or group of people.
- Isolation anxiety is similar, but any human company cures it. Put another way, a dog feeling isolation and distress will feel better with a dog sitter, or even a stranger, present.
So, if your dog cannot cope without YOU at home, it's separation anxiety. If they cannot be left alone at all, it's isolation anxiety. The signs and behaviors are similar: barking, urinating inside, chewing up your favorite pillow, etc. Changes in your family routine may trigger either issue, and this phenomenon may be more common among rescues.
Treatments for Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Let's explore some ways you can ease your dog's anxiety and help them through difficult days.
Anxiety vests, like ThunderShirt, swaddle your dog with gentle pressure. We're still learning about the physiological and psychological ways they work. Still, it seems like the constant gentle pressure these pet garments apply calms dogs during moments of fear and anxiety.
Anxiety vests seem to work well during:
- Thunderstorms and scary weather
- Fireworks and busy holidays
- Times when the owner needs to be away for a few days
- Any time your dog needs an extra boost of confidence because they're stressed
Many dog owners report that their pets handle situations like these much better when wearing an anxiety vest, and they seem to work for separation anxiety.
However, if the separation anxiety will be a long-term, daily issue — because you had to go back to work again after a pandemic, for instance — your dog will need to wear it every day. That can lead to a patchy coat, skin sores, and other discomforts for your pooch.
Calming beds are another option. They're great for pet parents who must be at work or school 40 hours a week because your dog can use them as needed without risking skin sores.
Your dog will appreciate the cuddly faux fur and the nest-like shape of MushyBeds. They'll feel cozy, safe, and secure while you go about your day. Best of all, they're machine-washable. Just pop your MushyBed in the wash to keep it fresh, fluffy, and free of fleas.
When to Get Professional Help
Some signs of separation anxiety — like excessive, repeat urination — might be a sign of something else, like a urinary tract infection (UTI). If your dog whines while urinating, call the vet. They can also prescribe anti-anxiety medications once UTI is ruled out.
At MushyBed, we believe every dog will benefit from our snuggly, cuddly, washable pet beds and blankets. So check out our reviews online, try our product, and let us know how well it works for your pack.