Things You Can Do To Help Your Dog With Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can be a serious problem in all breeds. However, German shepherds can be more prone to the problem than some other breeds since they are herding dogs. Affectionate and protective, it’s in their nature to watch over their family and that’s impossible when their humans are not home.
German shepherds are also very smart pack animals that can easily get bored, which can feed into anxious, destructive behavior. To prevent your German shepherd from acting up or getting stressed when you leave, teaching them that it’s okay to be alone is just as important as socializing them from a young age.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
Since dogs can’t talk, they show they’re stressed in different ways. not all dogs will exhibit all the symptoms of separation anxiety. But if you’re worried that your dog is suffering from it, here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
• Acting nervous or barking when they see the signals that you are getting ready to leave the house.
• Acting out by barking, howling, whining, pacing, trembling, destructive behavior, and other attention-seeking behavior when it’s time for you to leave for work.
• Panting, drooling, excessive salivation as you’re getting ready to go.
• Barking, howling, crying, and scratching the door when you close it behind you.
• Chewing, biting, and digging at doors and windows trying to escape and follow you.
• Habitually peeing and pooping in the house when you’re gone.
• Panicking, harming themselves in attempts to escape.
• Destructive chewing of furniture and other items around the house.
Sadly, many shepherds are dumped in shelters or rehomed because they suffer from separation anxiety, which only leads to more behavior problems. These dogs often find themselves lost in a cycle of abandonment, the situation they fear the most. The good news is, that there are things you can do to prevent separation anxiety and most dogs that suffer from it can be helped. The Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic states the goal of treatment is “to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone.”
Causes of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can be triggered for many reasons. Some of these include:
• Lack of training, impulse control, and confidence
• Being left alone for the first time
• After surgery or illness
• Abandonment, getting lost, being taken to a shelter
• Being rehomed or someone new moving in or out of the home
• Change in routine or schedule
• Death of a family member or another pet in the home
• Traumatic event, such as a robbery, fire, something bad happening at home
Things you can do to Help with Separation Anxiety Include:
1. Prevention with crate training and/or exercise pen
When raising a puppy, teach them that they are fine to be alone by having them spend time in an exercise pen or crate. When they learn that their crate is a safe place to be, it will provide them with a comfortable place to relax. Since your puppy can’t be left alone in the house, by putting them in their crate and leaving for short times (gradually building up the length of time you’re gone), they’ll get used to calmly being alone and learn you’ll be back soon.
2. Exercise your dog before you leave
Be sure that your dog has had some exercise before you leave the house. German shepherds have lots of energy and taking them for a walk, spending some time training, or just playing fetch before you leave will help them burn off some steam and be in a more restful state. Since your dog looks forward to this time of day, they’ll learn to associate something good happening before it’s time for you to go.
3. Use a high-value toy as a distracting reward
Since German shepherds are power chewers, you’ll have to use extra caution with this method but if your dog has a special safe chew that they especially love, only give it when you leave the house. A bone or other edible is probably not the best choice to leave them unsupervised with but stuffing a Kong or other highly durable chew with a small amount of high-value wet food works well.
4. Encourage your dog to spend time alone
German shepherds are called Velcro dogs because they love to cling to their owners, which is sweet, but they need to learn to spend time unglued to your side. Teach them the place command and encourage them to stay to help them learn that they don’t have to be right next to you all the time. Teach them how to place or stay for prolonged periods, such as when you’re cooking dinner or busy in another room to help condition this behavior.
5. Hire a pet sitter
In some cases, expecting your dog to be alone for long hours is unreasonable, especially with young puppies or older dogs that need a bathroom break. In these cases, consider hiring a pet walker or sitter to stop in to give your dog some attention and a potty break.
6. Use a dog daycare
If your dog loves to play with other dogs, dog daycare can be a good solution. Although it doesn’t teach your dog to be alone, it does solve the problem while making your dog happy and giving them a fun activity to do. There are even daycare facilities that even offer video monitoring so you can keep a close eye on your dog.
7. Using calming supplements
Some dogs just need extra support. There are supplements available that have calming benefits, for example, Purina’s Calming Care or Zesty Paws Calming Bites.
We hope these suggestions help you and your dog. If they don’t work for you, try consulting with your vet and a trainer who specializes in separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can be helped so don’t give up. Use the tools you need, such as a crate, to keep your dog and house safe until things get under control.
As always, please feel free to share this information with your friends.
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