Dogs are social animals, and they love companionship. Separation anxiety is the panic and anxiety that a dog experiences when they are left alone.

Separation anxiety can be triggered by a number of circumstances. Sudden changes to your dog’s routine such as being left alone for increased periods , unpredictable periods or being left alone for the first time may leave your dog confused and unsure if you will come back.  Change of ownership , someone moving out, the death of a family member or pet, moving to a new house and the birth of a new baby all can also result in  separation anxiety. For some dogs it can be hereditary.

Dogs can experience  physical , emotional and behavioural changes when they have separation anxiety. Before you leave the house a dog with separation anxiety may try to leave the house with you or try to obstruct you from leaving. They may also start to tremble. While you are away your dog may bark constantly out of fear , continue to tremble and have an increased heart rate. They may pace,  scratch doors and floors and dig. They may chew on things like furniture and other objects. Despite being toilet trained their anxiety  may cause them to have accidents in your house. They may also refuse to eat and drink when alone. Dogs with separation anxiety will try to escape through a window by chewing the window sill or by jumping through the glass. They may also try to escape your yard. Some dogs who are very anxious may self-harm by licking or biting themselves to the bone. A dog who has separation anxiety will be  overjoyed to see you when you come home  and perform a welcome doggy dance or zoomies. He may get his appetite back and gobble his food so fast that he may vomit.

Separation anxiety does cause your dog significant distress. The good news is that you can help to lessen and overcome their suffering naturally. You can try any or all of the following:

Have a routine. Set up a special area, special bed and toys where they can relax when you are at home. Allow your pet some alone time in another room to help them feel secure when you are away. Encourage play time without you. Give them some exercise before you leave to make them happy and tired.

If they have become used to you being around 24/7 start the process of gradual desensitisation. The process is explained here 

It is also really important not to make a big fuss about leaving them.  Try to be indifferent to  your dog for about 15 minutes before leaving and when coming home.  Don’t punish your dog for his destructive behaviour as this would make him more anxious. He is not doing things because he is naughty, he is just plain scared.

There are also a number of different things that can lessen your dog’s anxiety and to help them feel secure when they are home alone. Before you leave home, you can:

Set up  a pet camera to film your dog in real time when they are alone. This can help you work out after how long your dog becomes anxious. You can talk to your dog and reassure and even reward them by releasing a treat remotely. Bells Dogworld stocks the Smart Pet Camera.

Wrap your dog in a calm vest. When your dog wears it he feels like he is being cuddled. It will make him  feel secure. Bells Dogworld stocks the  Thundershirt.

Give him a fresh bone. This will keep him amused for a few hours especially if it is meaty

Use a spatula to spread some of his favourite foods on a LickiMat.  Some of the foods could be wet dog food, natural peanut butter, pumpkin puree, vegetable purees like green bean and carrot, plain Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, gelatinous bone broth or mashed banana. Using a LickiMat encourages the act of licking, which releases pleasure endorphins in your dogs’ brain. These endorphins can help calm dogs in stressful situations. LickMats are also good for providing  stimulation and preventing boredom. Bells Dogworld stocks a wide variety of LickiMats which vary in colour and texture. There are also Tuff LickiMats for dogs who ordinarily chew through everything. Search for LickiMats here.

Give your dog ThunderWunder Calming Chews or Natural Animal Solutions Calm Remedy. The chews are formulated with chamomile, ginger, thiamine and passionflower and help promote rest and relaxation. They have a pleasant taste, and your dog will think of it as a treat.  The calming chews are also vet approved.

Use hemp / cannabis oil or treats. Cannabis is made up of two components. The cannabis extract that is used for dog promotes relaxation without the high. This component  is called CBD. This can be given as an oil mixed in with your dog’s food or given as tasty biscuit treats. Bells Dogworld sells Vitalitae hemp jerky or biscuits and Laila and Me Hemp Oil.

Set up a treat dispensing interactive puzzle . It will keep your dog stimulated and distracted. A puzzle will exercise both his mind and body, reduce boredom and problem behaviours. Nina Ottosson has designed many engaging treat dispensing puzzles. Our dog Cinno loves ‘ The Tornado’ . He has to use his paw to twist and turn three levels of the puzzle to find the treats. Using a combination of different treats will make the puzzle more exciting .  Bells Dogworld stocks a range of Nina Ottosson treat dispensing interactive puzzles.

Use Aromatherapy.  Certain natural essential oils have a calming effect on dogs. Scent quickly stimulates an emotional response in your dog as it travels directly to the part of the brain that’s in charge of stress levels. Inhaling the scents of natural essential oils helps them feel less anxious.

If you use your own essential oils you need to choose 100 percent pure, therapeutic-grade and certified organic essential oils free of adulterants and additives.  Check that the essential oils are not toxic or not recommended for your dog.  You should also ask for your Vet’s advice to make sure that the essential oil will not be detrimental to your dogs health conditions and breed. Essential oils should not be used for puppies less than 10 weeks old. Thunder Essence Naturally Calmer Dog Spray  is a calming blend of  100% natural essential oils. It is formulated  from lavender, chamomile and Egyptian geranium and is made especially for dogs.

Use Adaptil Calm Home Diffuser. It releases natural chemicals called pheromones. These are the same chemicals which a mother dog releases to comfort her babies and make them feel secure. These pheromones reduce stress and anxiety. It is odourless so its use will not bother humans or other pets.  

Use Crystal Therapy.  Several crystals in particular help to soothe separation anxiety.  The best crystals to calm your dog’s separation anxiety are Chevron Amethyst and Black Obsidian. Bells Dogworld offers two crystal products for dogs. The Urban Oasis crystal - infused water bottle includes  a large Chevron Amethyst Crystal or Black Obsidian Crystal. The crystals infuse the water with their calming properties. The bottle is also very easy to use, convenient and stylish. It’s a product that could be included in Vogue Magazine!

The other product is a multi- crystal dog charm which clips onto your dog’s collar. It is handmade with 6 tiny beautiful and different crystals.  The charm includes Amethyst and Black Obsidian which soothe separation anxiety.  The other crystals, Lapis Lazuli, Rose Quartz, Carnelian, and Turquoise help heal a number of different physical and emotional problems that can trouble your dog. All the crystals combined together make the charm a powerhouse of healing. The link gives more information about the benefits of each of the crystals in the charm.

Subscribe to Dogtv and watch it on your favourite streaming device or cable/satellite. The programmes have been developed from  60 scientific studies. They are designed to complement your dog’s daily cycle to reduce stress and anxiety and to keep him happy throughout the day. Stimulation programs feature dogs and other animals to prevent boredom and stimulate the hearing and visual senses. Relaxation programs feature calming scenes to relax your dog. Exposure programs help your dog to overcome their sensitivity to loud sounds like car rides and doorbells. There are also plenty of fun, educational and entertaining programs for pet parents. You can try it free for 7 days

Play some dog music. Dogs have 3 times the range of human hearing.  petcalmer.com has designed Pet Tunes which is a bluetooth speaker that plays 90 minutes of scientifically developed calming dog music. The music helps to reduce your dogs’ anxiety and makes him feel safe and relaxed in his own environment.

December 12, 2021 — Mary Richardson

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