Tag Archives: separation anxiety

How to Minimize Separation Anxiety When You Must Leave Your Pet

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We love spending time with our dogs and if we could have it our way, they would accompany us on all adventures – vacations and business trips included! Unfortunately, not every occasion is suited to bringing our furry friends along (so you’re telling me my dog can’t be my plus one at your wedding?!) and in those instances, we turn to our next best option – pet-sitters!

While we as owners know a pet-sitting stay is a temporary arrangement, this isn’t exactly something we can communicate with our dogs. Thus, they may experience some degree of separation anxiety when they are away from us. While this stress can seem inevitable, there are a few steps you and your pet-sitter can take to minimize any anxiety. We’ve partnered with DogVacay, an online service that connects pet owners with loving pet-sitters, to share their best practices for minimizing separation anxiety.

Before You Leave:

Find the Perfect Pet-Sitter
The most important prevention tip for separation anxiety is to choose a pet-sitter based on your dog’s needs. If you have an active dog or a puppy that is happiest after they’ve spent the day running around, consider looking for someone who has a yard, can offer long walks or has other dogs that yours can play with. If your pet has experienced separation anxiety during a previous boarding or pet-sitting stay, you may want to consider a pet-sitter who offers 24/7 care or has experience dealing with this type of behavior.

Share Your Pet’s History
Has your dog stayed with a pet-sitter before, or is this their first time away from home? How long can they be left alone for? Knowing these things beforehand can help your pet-sitter anticipate the level of attention your dog will need. The more the pet-sitter knows about your dog, the better!

Share a Schedule
It’s always a good idea to share your dog’s normal schedule with your pet-sitter. Keeping your dog on a similar routine to what they experience at home can help their bodies and minds and adjust quickly to their new environment. Sharing information like what time they usually eat, when they take their walks, how many walks they take, where they sleep etc., will all be helpful information for the pet-sitter so they can make your dog as comfortable as possible.

Pack Items from Home
Bringing your dog’s bed, toys or some comfort items from home can help them establish a safe and familiar space in their pet-sitter’s home. If they are crate-trained, consider bringing their crate along with any bedding that usually goes with it. The more comfortable they are in the pet-sitter’s home, the better off they’ll be!

While You’re Away
Sometimes your dog can still experience separation anxiety despite your best efforts to prevent it. In these cases, distraction is key!

Tire the Pup Out
Some serious play time is often the best remedy. Tiring your dog out will help them expend some of their nervous energy and distract from the fact that they are away from you. If possible before you leave, take a long walk, go for a run, or spend some time playing with your dog. Encourage your pet-sitter to do the same during the stay!

Stimulate the Nose and the Mind
Have a toy or treat that your dog can focus their energy on. A Kong toy filled with something delicious is a great distraction tool – try wedging a high value treat (such as peanut butter or lunch meat) in the center of the toy so that your dog must think and work to get to it.

Play Calming Music
Sounds crazy, but it can work! Ambient sounds or relaxing instrumental music can calm an anxious dog. Share this information with your pet-sitter and have them play some mellow tunes if your dog is showing signs of anxiety when it’s time to relax for the night. There are some great “Dog Music” playlists available on YouTube, Spotify and Pandora. The radio tuned to a classical music station also works!

Remember, the key is to communicate with your pet-sitter beforehand and then ensure your dog is getting the physical and mental exercise they need while you are away. Over time, they’ll learn that your absences are only temporary and leaving will always mean that you’ll return!


The Bark Side: How to Stop Incessant Barking

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The reality of the matter is that dogs bark. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons such as separation anxiety, attention or boredom, but as a general note, dog owners should understand that occasional barking is not only normal and to be expected, it’s the only way canines know how to communicate vocally. Similar to a newborn baby who cries for anything and everything he wants, puppies can do the same, especially prior to being trained.

However, there are certain dogs who are prone to excessive barking throughout the day and night, which can be annoying, disruptive and frustrating for not only pup parents, but also neighbors and guests. This type of continuous barking should not be ignored, as it can develop into a bad habit which only worsens over time.

Training a dog to curb barking can be a difficult task, but with consistency, practice and patience, you will definitely see progress. By following the following do’s and don’ts, you’ll be steps closer to keeping your dog quiet and getting the barking under control.

1. Do make sure to exercise your dog frequently. A tired dog is a quiet dog. Oftentimes, dogs bark out of boredom or loneliness. To combat these common causes, offer up regular activities and playtime for your dog – a game of fetch, a trip to the dog park, a walk around the block, or if needed, an investment in agility training or cage-free doggie daycare, are all options to keep your dog active and busy. If your dog is alone for long stretches of the day, provide toys or long-lasting chew bones to keep his attention span focused.

2. Do teach your dog the command, “Quiet!” When your dog is barking, say “Quiet,” in a firm, yet calm voice. Once he stops barking, even if it’s just to pause, praise and reward him with a treat. Just be very careful not to give treats while he’s barking. It’s imperative that he associates good behavior with a reward, and that bad behavior is ignored. You can pair “Quiet” with holding a finger to your lips mimicking the “shhh” sound, as some dogs pick up sign language faster than vocal commands. Above all else, it is important not to yell or scream at your dog in anger. Besides being an unhealthy way to reprimand, shouting is counter-productive as it simulates the barking noise and many dogs will think you’re just joining in with them, rather than scolding them.

3. Do bring a barking outdoor dog indoors. For somewhat obvious reasons, dogs that bark all night should be brought inside the house. A dog barking outside in the yard can easily bother the neighbors and potentially rile up other dogs in the vicinity. When a dog is brought inside a quiet, peaceful, comfortable home with his family members, he will quickly learn to settle down and sleep. Plus, a dog sleeping close by is added protection and security for the family!

4. Do remove barking triggers from your dog’s living environment. If you notice that your dog barks out of alarm or fear, and at particular objects or environmental factors, adjust or remove those triggers. For example, if your dog continues to bark at other animals or people through a fence, consider switching to an enclosure without slats. If your dog barks whenever your doorbell rings, you may want to ask guests to knock on the door instead.

While it’s unreasonable to change life dramatically to accommodate barking, there is nothing wrong with making minor adjustments that pose little inconvenience, if they’ll bring you some peace and quiet.

5. Don’t allow the problem to continue. The longer bad behavior goes on and on, the more ingrained the conduct can become in the dog’s personality. Barking can be a pleasant form of release for dogs who bark to seek attention, communicate anxiety or fear, or even to express a desire to play. If at home training is proving ineffective, take your dog to a behavioral specialist who specializes in barking issues. Nip the problem in the bud, before it’s too late.

6. Don’t give up when your training method isn’t working. Because barking occurs for a multitude of reasons, it’s important to address the issue even when at-home or professional training methods fail. There is the rare potential that your dog is barking for a medical reason that needs veterinary attention. A health issue as minor as pain from a bee sting to something as serious as brain disease can cause excessive barking. So, if you’re ever at a complete loss, it doesn’t hurt to do your due diligence and get a thorough checkup for Fido.

7. Don’t use a shock collar, muzzle or “debark” your dog! Shock collars, which deliver painful currents to jolt your pet whenever he barks, cause harm and can make dogs aggressive if they begin to associate the person, dog or object they’re barking at with pain. Similarly, a muzzle, which is used as a means of constraint to keep a dog quiet, is a dangerous device, especially if used when the dog is unsupervised. Debarking, which is often considered an inhumane and antiquated procedure, is a surgery designed to leave dogs with a raspy bark, instead of a full bark. Complications are common and “debarking” can be life threatening. Other “bark prevention tools” such as water sprayers or noise makers to deter your dog from barking can reinforce traditional training, but should not be used as standalone training mechanisms. Rewarding your dog for good behavior is still the most effective and humane training method.

How to Deal With Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

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If you leave your pooch alone for extended periods of time (anywhere from 3-8 hours) on a regular basis, he will likely experience separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is especially prevalent among puppies who were recently taken away from their biological mothers and are adjusting to life outside of the litter.

While it can be heartbreaking to watch a pup suffer from this mental health issue, it can also be destructive to your home and put intense stress on the important relationship you should be building with your pet. Separation anxiety manifests itself in your dog misbehaving in a variety of ways including but not limited to destroying furniture, peeing and pooping in the house in unexpected places, nonstop barking, or all of the above. Given the fact that many people have to leave their dogs unattended for long periods of time due to work obligations or lifestyle, the question then becomes how to work through separation anxiety and make life for your pup (and you) as comfortable as possible.

Select the Breed Carefully
Certain breeds are more prone to anxiety as they require constant companionship. If you don’t have a puppy yet, while you look, ask PuppySpot’s puppy counselors about which breeds are best for you and your family’s personal lifestyle. Be upfront and frank about your regular weekly schedule and how much time you’re able to devote to being present with your pet. This information is crucial in determining the right breed for you.

Wean Your Pooch off Anxiety
If you already have a pup who is battling anxiety, it’s imperative to implement training tactics to get him used to your absence. Start with a few minutes at a time of putting your dog in another room out of sight and then reward him with treats at consistent intervals. Slowly increase alone time to 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes. Then go up 1, 2, 3, 4 hours. If your dog starts to bark or become destructive, don’t show yourself, but rather say “bad dog.” Showing yourself only reinforces the barking and destructive behavior.

Keep Your Pup Well Occupied
Once your pooch gets used to being alone, make sure he has plenty of toys to play with to keep him busy and content. Another trick to help ease your pup’s attachment is to put a used shirt of yours (preferably one you’ve sweated heavily on, then dried) in his space or bed so that he feels you’re close by and is comforted by your scent.

Consider Doggie Daycare
By enrolling your pooch in a doggie daycare program, he will have the opportunity to be immersed in social activity and distracted throughout the day by other dogs and caretakers. While this option can be expensive, if you choose a daycare which doubles as a training center, you may feel it’s worth the investment (and peace of mind).

Go High Tech
Another alternative to help your pup acclimate to his solitary surroundings (and again, to give you peace of mind) is to wire your home for remote camera access. All you need is a personal computer, laptop, or tablet with a camera and internet connectivity. Place it in a location where your dog can easily be visible and equally as important, where the device is visible to your dog. You can then set up a system where you can remotely access the camera of the unit at your home with your PC or mobile device. This way you and your pooch see each other and can interact. For best results, use a web cam that you can remotely manipulate.

Homeward Bound
When you do finally get home, take your pooch out of his crate or confined space, give him a big hug and immediately take him out for a walk or play with him. Your pooch waited for you and now he deserves your undivided love and attention.