If you’ve just started looking for a way to tackle your dogs separation anxiety treatment, this quick review of the 6 most common ways dog owners try to solve this problem should be helpful.
It’s commonly believed that a tired dog will be less anxious, so you could take your dog for a long walk yourself before you go out or find a dog walker to take your dog for a walk if you’re going to be out for a long time.
International dog trainer Cesar Millan is a big believer in the power of exercise, though his recommendations for walking your dog for hours each day may not be practical for some dog owners, who also have to juggle work and family commitments.
Using Anxiety Medication
Anxiety medications for dogs seem to be quite widely recommended. Non-prescription herbal formulas work as a natural sedative and can be given as a treat or in liquid form. They claim to help calm your pet for short periods of time (1-2 hours). To get stronger prescription formulas you will need to consult with your vet as these should be closely regulated to get the right dosage and come with some risks to the dogs health that you need to be aware of.
This plug-in (a bit like an air freshner) produces a calming effect for dogs experiencing anxiety through the release of dog appeasing pheromones into the air throughout the room. Although synthetic, it mimics a new mother’s natural pheromones, and is said to reduce and prevent stress-related behaviours.
Favourite Toy or a Chew Toy Stuffed With Food
Leaving you dog with his favourite toy is a way of keeping them entertained and distracting them from noticing that you’re no longer there. The chew toy stuffed with food is designed so that the dog has to work hard to get the treats out and it generally takes a long time to get to the treats inside.
Thundershirt and Anxiety Wrap
The Thundershirt is a pressure wrap that applies a gentle, constant pressure on a dogs torso and is said to bring calm and focus back to your dog. To date, know one knows for sure why it works – there are theories, but no scientific studies to prove them yet. According to some experts using pressure to relieve anxiety is an ancient therapy and has been a common practice for years.
Dog Separation Anxiety Training
Most vets would recommend a behavioural training programme for your dog, whether that include the use of medication or not. Long term you’ll need to desensitise your dog to some of the triggers that set of their anxiety and deal with the specific dog behaviour problems that have been created by the anxiety. A dog training programme should give you the methods and techniques to make these changes. Check out this step-by-step training programme designed specifically to help in the treatment of dog separation anxiety.
Which of These Dog Separation Anxiety Treatments Work Best?
While there are customer testimonials to back-up each one of these methods, they fall into different approaches to the problem. Some, such as favourite toys are based on distracting a dog from their separation anxiety feelings while others, such as the DAP, aim to temporarily reduce the feelings of anxiety.
Its interesting to note that one of the common methods is to exercise your dog and the other is to feed him! But while exercise is no bad thing for a dog, and a tired dog may settle down more, the flip side is that you could end up with a fitter dog with more energy than ever (isn’t that what exercise does for us all), still worrying about where his owners have gone.
With the toys, we have heard of very anxious dogs who wouldn’t touch the stuffed chew toy until the owners returned (because anxiety can reduce appetite), so its usefulness depends on your dog. Another potential issue is that toys that are only given to your dog when you’re going out, could actually become an anxiety trigger.
Finally, altering the mood of your dog with medication (even naturally), while useful in reducing the effects of anxiety is not likely to get rid of it altogether as once the medication wears off the symptoms are likely to return. You should also look carefully into the potential side effects of some of the medication, on your dog.
So while all of the above methods have a place in treating your dogs anxiety, and all of them could be worth trying to see how your dog reacts, be aware that some offer more short term help than others. Long term they may not be enough to get rid of anxiety altogether and this is where a training programme will be of most help.
Choosing a Dog Training Programme
A good dog training programme does require more work from you, but will help you get to the root of your dogs separation anxiety and make the kind of changes that will significantly reduce it or remove it altogether and help keep your dog calm long-term. When considering a programme, make sure it includes:
- methods of how you can desensitise your dog to some of the anxiety triggers
- techniques to deal with the individual behaviour problems caused by the separation anxiety (effects like your dog pooping and urinating in the house),
- and training that will show you how to be the pack leader
Whatever treatment you choose start taking action now as dog separation anxiety will not disappear on its own. You can find out a lot more about dog anxiety by watching this free video series created for us by a professional dog trainer.