It was 5am in the morning and the neighborhood was still silent. Jill, a high school teacher, is preparing to drive out of her garage as the route for her daily commute is a heavy traffic mess if she dares leave later than 5am.
As soon as she starts the engine, loud deafening continuous barks emanated from her living room. She keeps trying to shush Browny the dog as her neighbors are already complaining about this loud commotion very early in the morning. Browny just would not stop barking unless Jill turns off the engine and decides to go back in her house. This kind of decision making between getting fired from her job or becoming the most hated neighbor cannot keep continuing every morning. It is urgent that Browny be checked by a dog behavioural specialist as soon as possible.
It turns out Browny is suffering from a common behavioral issue called Separation Anxiety. It is a condition where the dog becomes chaotic or wreckful when feeling that it will be left alone. The troublemaking behavior is not limited to barking but could also range from howling, chewing, digging, or even trying to escape once it notices that the owner has left or is about to leave. Apparently, Browny's behavior seemed to have stemmed from when Jill decided to go on a vacation for a week and decided to leave Browny alone, only to be fed and walked once a day by her neighbor. When Jill drives out of the garage, Browny remembers the time it was left alone for a long time in the house, not certain when its owner would be back.
Are you worried that your dog has separation anxiety? Check below the list of the following symptoms of this condition:
- Urinating and defacating when owner is not home
- Urinating and defacating and eating the wastes only when owner is not at home
- Barking and howling when it senses that the owner is about to leave
- Chewing household objects when owner is not home when usually the dog does not chew anything when owner is at home
- Trying to escape by attempting to dig or chewing dig doorways or windows
- Walking in a fixed pattern like a circular one or a back and forth in a straight line one
Separation anxiety is not something that you as a dog owner should shrug off as harmless. If left unchecked, this behavior could cause long time damages to the dog. It could also be a problem to the owner especially if the dog exhibits destructive behavior. The worse case scenarios of this condition includes the dog getting sick from habitual eating of its excrements, broken teeth and injured paws from forceful looking for an escape, or being lost or dying after successfully breaking out of your home.
Fortunately, separation anxiety in dogs could be managed. Below are the ways on how to deal with it:
- Counterconditioning for Mild Cases
This is a method where you have to associate good things happening to your pet whenever you leave. This rewires the dog's fear to becoming a positive experience for it. An example of this would be buying your dog a puzzle toy filled with delicious food that will take for him around 30 minutes to figure out to be able to eat the food. An example of this puzzle toy is the Kong Chew toy that you will be stuffing with treats inside. It costs from around $12 to $24 depending on the right size for your pet. Note though that this will only work with dogs that has mild separation anxiety as others with more severe conditions would be too stressed out to play with the toy.
- Desensitization and Counterconditioning for More Severe Cases
This is a more complex method for dogs that requires the help of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist(Dip ACVB). In this method, it is crucial to slowly make the dog comfortable to being alone by starting with many short separations that does not trigger the fear and then little by little do increments in the duration of the separations across many weeks of daily sessions. The professionals would create a customized plan for the desensitizing depending on the severity of the anxiety of the dog. These sessions typically range from $85-$150 per hour when done face to face and $25-$75 when done remotely.
If all the management solutions provided above seems too costly for you, here is an alternative solution to manage your dog's anxiety whenever you leave. Hire a pet sitter for free! Luckily for you, we offer our services of pet sitting for free. Here at FreePetSitters, our pet sitters are certified pet lovers who are willing to sit for you with the payment only being they get to care for your beloved dog. The difference with FreePetSitters from other sitting services is that our sitters are not ones that register on the website over some online verification methods but rather they are found by our also pet caring CEO personally, assessed carefully and rigorously by checking out their police verification documents and their prior experiences with pets. This is the reason why we only have a handful of sitters as each and everyone is ensured to provide the best sitting service for you in exchange for getting to take care of your pet. With this method, you are sure that there is always someone with your pet whenever you have to leave thus, no separation anxiety could occur.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to manage your dog's anxieties whenever you have to leave. Choose wisely for the most cost-effective solution that works for you and your beloved pet!