Did you know that 20-40% of dogs seen by veterinarians and behavioral specialists suffer from separation anxiety? For some, the signs are as mild as whining and imploring you with those “puppy dog eyes” when you leave the house. But they can often be much worse, including crying, barking, chewing, howling, destructive behavior, or accidents in the house.
Even if your dog is normally pretty chill when left alone, you might have noticed that’s not the case recently. Why? After months in quarantine or working from home, routines are changing as some of us return to the office or start back to school. All our dogs know is that we’d been home with them constantly, and now we’re not – which can lead to issues that weren’t there before.
If you’re looking for options to help ease your best friend’s separation issues, here are a few things you can try, including considering CBD oil for dogs.
What Is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
We all know our dogs love us, but some can be overly attached to us or certain family members. If a dog is too dependent on people, they can become incredibly anxious and distressed when their favorite human is away.
A dog that is “clingy” and follows you from room to room, or doesn’t like to be anywhere without you, often gets visibly upset when you leave the house or are apart from them. They need constant physical contact and attention and don’t do well at all when left alone.
While it is not always known what causes separation anxiety in dogs, it can be more common in rescue or shelter dogs or in certain breeds (Labs, Shepherds, Chihuahuas, and Spaniels). It can also be set off by specific events:
- Being left alone for the first time (common in puppies)
- Being left alone after being used to constant companionship
- Feeling abandoned, like being left at a boarding kennel or coming from a shelter
- Changing household routine or structure, or the loss of a family member or another pet
No matter the cause, separation anxiety in dogs can be frustrating or frightening for both you and your furry friend. It’s crucial to recognize some of the signs, so you know if your dog is struggling with this common issue.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Every dog is different. Some may not seem worried that you’re leaving the house, and you might not think anything is wrong until you come home to find your favorite shoes in a slobbery, shredded pile or broken planters on the floor. Others will begin to show signs of distress as soon as they see you put on your coat or head toward the door without them.
While every dog will show their distress differently, here are some common signs of separation anxiety:
- Incessant crying, whining, barking, howling
- Pacing, acting restless
- Panting and drooling
- Scratching or digging at doors and windows
- Trying to escape
- Destructive behavior
- Vomiting, peeing, or pooping in the house
- Chewing or eating at walls, doors, cabinets
- Following you around the house when you come home
- Becoming distressed when you prepare to leave
- Not eating
These signs are not a complete list by any means. But if you notice any of these behaviors, you should take your dog to the veterinarian to discuss your concerns.
While it’s easy to assume that signs of stress or destructive behaviors mean separation anxiety in dogs, sometimes the problem is actually due to a lack of proper training, boredom, medication side effects, or even an underlying health issue. It’s always best to see your vet just to rule out other causes and to discuss any behavioral problems.
How to Help a Dog with Separation Anxiety
Once you’ve ruled out any underlying medical or other causes for your dog’s separation anxiety, you can start tackling the problem and hopefully help your dog adjust better to being alone. Here are some things to consider when working with your anxious pup.
Never Punish Your Dog
As frustrating as it is to come home to doggy destruction or “presents” left by the door, getting angry and punishing your dog will not help the problem. Attention is still attention, even if it’s negative, and dogs quickly learn that their actions will get a response out of you.
Help Them Adjust to Being Alone
If your dog is super clingy, encourage independence by using commands like sit and stay and reward them positively. Train them to stay, then leave the room for longer periods of time as they adjust. Give treats and extra attention before you go, making positive associations with your leaving.
Create a Safe Space
Consider crate training or confining your dog to a space where they feel safe, but only if confinement doesn't make the behavior worse. Get them used to using the space, even when you’re home. Fill it with favorite toys and blankets and provide a treat or two when they use the space, so they see it as a positive, not a punishment.
Provide Plenty of Exercise
A tired dog is a happy dog. Making sure they get enough exercise to wear them out before you leave them alone can go a long way in easing their stress. If you keep your dog physically stimulated, they are often less likely to tear things up when left alone.
Enrich Their Environment
Just as important as physical stimulation is mental stimulation. Sure, dogs like to nap on the couch when you’re gone, but they also like to play. Provide them with lots of toys, especially the interactive kind, like treat balls or activity mats. Consider leaving the TV on a nature channel at low volume, or playing soothing music or talk radio while you’re away.
Check-in on Them
If you’re gone for long periods of time, consider hiring a dog walker or having a friend or family member stop in while you’re away to give them a chance to get outside and play. If that’s not always an option, try a treat-dispensing camera to monitor their behavior or provide stimulation; you can even use it for training and for some interactive fun.
Adjusting your behavior can often help them adjust theirs. Change up your “leaving” routine and signals, like using a different door each time or placing your keys, coat, or bag in a different spot.
Always stay calm when leaving or returning home, especially if your dog gets overly excited or upset. While you may be thrilled that your dog does an excited, barky, happy dance every time you come home, Fido is much more likely to relax if you do the same and will pick up on your body language, tone of voice, and reactions.
Consider CBD for Dogs
You probably know, either first hand or from a friend, that CBD can help people in so many ways, including promoting a sense of well-being and calm. But did you know your dog can use CBD made for pets for the same reasons? CBD is becoming popular with pet owners who are seeing the benefits of using it daily to help their furry friends feel their best, especially if they have stress or anxiety issues.
CBD Products for Dogs
If you think your stressed-out pup could use a little extra TLC and you’re interested in CBD, here are some things to consider.
Finding CBD products for pets has gotten way easier, and they are readily available in stores and online. But like anything else you purchase for your dog, you want to be sure you’re getting a safe, quality, effective product. When shopping for CBD for your pet, it’s important to:
- Make sure you know where the hemp is sourced and manufactured
- Check and understand all the ingredients listed to avoid fillers and anything artificial
- Only buy products made with premium CBD that is third-party lab tested to be free of THC
- Seek out products that are veterinarian-formulated for your pet’s safety
- Choose strengths based on your pet’s weight and follow all serving suggestions and directions
Types of CBD for Dogs
While you will find a variety of products on the market, the most popular and common are CBD oil tinctures and CBD oil treats and chews. CBD oil can be given directly using a dropper to put it in your dog’s mouth, or drizzled over food or snacks. CBD oil treats are portable and convenient and make it easy to provide your dog with all the benefits of CBD in a tasty snack they’ll love. The type of product you choose really just depends on what you and your dog like best!
CBD Calming Products
While regular CBD products can provide positive results for your dog, you might also consider something created specifically for calming. In addition to premium CBD, CBD calming oil and CBD calming chews also include naturally soothing ingredients like melatonin, valerian root, chamomile, and L-tryptophan to help maintain a sense of calm, especially when you know your dog might be overly stressed out.
Not sure which one your dog might like better? You can try a Calm Canine Bundle, offered in two strengths (S/M for dogs under 50 lbs and M/L for dogs over 50 lbs).
Separation Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful
We love our dogs and want to do whatever we can to keep them happy. If your canine companion suffers from separation anxiety, know that you are not alone, and there are many things you can do to help your best friend feel better.
Talking to your veterinarian, making some positive changes, trying some new approaches, and being patient will go a long way in helping make things a little less “ruff” when you’re away.
About Paw CBD by cbdMD
Paw CBD was created by cbdMD to offer a comprehensive, veterinarian-formulated selection of CBD products for pets, made with premium hemp grown in the USA. You can learn more about the full lineup of flavored and natural tinctures, baked and soft chews, creamy peanut butter, soothing balm, and specialty formulas for both cats and dogs at www.pawcbd.com.