There’s no real consensus amongst vets or dog training experts about the best way to treat dog separation anxiety, as recommendations vary according to the severity of the anxiety and the behaviour problems the dog is displaying.
However, here’s a quick review of the most common ways that dog owners use as dog separation anxiety treatment.
It is widely believed that if a dog is tired out with exercise, they are much less likely to feel anxious when left alone. So many dog owners will take their dog for a long walk before going out, or hire a dog walker to come in during the day if they are going to be out for a long time. The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan is a great advocate of the power of exercise for a dog, however, with modern working life, this approach is not always practical.
Both non prescription and prescription medication is often advised for an anxious dog. Non-prescription formulas are said to be effective at calming a dog for a few hours and are available in liquid form or even in treat form. They are herbal based and said to have no side effects. Prescription medication is only recommended for extreme cases of anxiety and usually only after other treatments have been tried and failed to get the desired results. You will need to see your vet as this type of medication can have side effects and therefore needs to be closely monitored.
A pheromone treatment known as DAP has been developed which mimics those produced by a mother for her pups and is said to have a calming effect on anxious dogs and reduce stress related behaviours. The synthetic pheromones are pumped into the air through a devise that acts much like a plug-in air freshener.
Toys to Distract a Dog
Leaving a dog with exciting toys is another method used by dog owners to try to distract and keep their dog entertained while they are out. A very popular choice is a chew toy that can be stuffed with food that takes a dog a long time to get into. If you leave your dog on a daily basis you need to make be careful that you do not end up over feeding your dog if you use this method.
Pressure wraps are fitted to a dog to apply a gentle yet constant pressure to their body and claims to bring back calm and focus to a dog. Using pressure to relieve anxiety is an ancient practice in humans and there are now plenty of dog owners who claim that it has been effective with their dogs, although there have been no scientific studies that prove it yet.
Dog Separation Anxiety Training
The closest that dog experts come to agreement about anxiety treatment is around the use of behavioural training and even vets advocating the use of drugs for anxiety will also recommend a training programme to run alongside it. Long term, (whatever short-term solutions you try out), there’s a need to desensitize a dog to the triggers that set off their anxiety. You’ll also need to deal with the behaviour problems created by the anxiety.
Choosing a Method to Help Calm Your Dog
Your choice of treatment to reduce dog anxiety needs to depend on the severity of the anxiety and the dog behaviour problems you are trying to deal with. For instance, extreme anxiety may not respond to anything other than prescription medication and a long period of desensitization training, whereas mild cases may respond well to any of the methods mentioned. If in any doubt, ask your vet.