Pet Separation Anxiety During Back-to-School Season
I still consider myself to be a new dog owner. My dog, Opal, turned one in July, but we adopted her in October. When we got Opal, my kids were still in school. During the formative months, we successfully house and crate trained her. For the last few months of school, Opal did just fine in her crate while the kids were at school.
Now we have gone through an entire summer with kids home all day, and I worry about her transitioning back to the crate for hours during the day. I decided to investigate ways that I can ease this process, so Opal enjoys her alone time.
Crate training is an important aspect of helping your pet with anxiety. If you need help training your dog to love their crate read this article next. (link to article)
Things to Avoid
Chews that break down like rawhide, bully sticks, or bones should be avoided. If you give these types of chews to your dog, they should always be monitored and have access to water. They have the potential to be a choking hazard if they get small enough.
It’s also a good idea to take away their food. Your pup will do whatever they can to not go potty in their crate. If they have food while they are in their crate and you are unable to let them out in time, they could have a really bad day, and you will have a mess to clean up.
Comfort From Smell
We know that dogs have a tremendous sense of smell. A smell your dog associates with you can be a powerful source of anxiety relief. An old piece of clothing, blanket, or pillowcase is easily added to your pet’s crate when you leave and will put their mind at ease until you return.
Comfort from Licking
Licking our hand isn’t just a strange way for your dog to say hello. Our dogs lick our hands as a way to connect with us and assure themselves that everything is safe. During the firework season, I tested some new products we brought in called Licki Mats. Licki Mats are small rubber mats with pockets and little nubs. You can freeze some broth inside of them, smear them with pet-safe peanut butter, or spread canned dog food over them. When you leave, you can add the mat to their crate. This makes a nice treat for your pup and the licking will reduce anxiety for a couple of hours.
Comfort From Exercise
If you have the time before leaving to have some interactive exercise with your dog, they will be ready for a break. Playing fetch, having a tug of war, or whatever game your dog loves, will not just tire them out. This activity also works their minds. Being tired of body and mind makes some isolation a welcome reprieve.
Comfort From a Toy
Opal is part lab and part Chesapeake Bay retriever. I discovered early on that she finds comfort in holding a toy or blanket in her mouth, which can be a little confusing at times. Usually, we think that when a dog approaches us with something in their mouth, they are asking us to play fetch. With Opal, this isn’t the case. She loves to fetch, but often the thing she is carrying brings her a sense of security, and she isn’t bringing it to you. She just wants to hold it. Letting your dog have a toy that preferably isn’t stuffed can offer your dog continuous comfort while you’re gone.
These are only a few things you can do to help your dog with separation anxiety. Our dogs look to us for guidance and understanding of their place in life. When you come home be sure to give them lots of love and assurance. They missed you deeply.