Our dogs bring so much more to our lives than just protection and a companion for walks. They truly become part of our families. With their unique characteristics and personality traits, they become as important to us as our own kids.
It's concerning when suddenly our furry friends become extra clingy, stressed, and even display signs of anxiety. What could have triggered this change, and how can you address it?
Well, there are a few things that could be affecting your dog’s behavior. Older dogs seem to develop separation anxiety as years pass. While we can't stop our beloved pets from aging, there are a few things we can do to support them through these changes.
So let’s look at what you can do if your dog has separation anxiety.
Understanding Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety, which is not limited to dogs, is a constant fear of being separated from a loved one. Humans can also experience this anxiety in one form or another at some point.
Take toddlers, for instance, who cry excessively when their parents leave them alone, even for a short period. However, they eventually outgrow this phase as they come to realize that their mom or dad will be back at the end of the day.
Dogs often suffer from similar anxieties, and there are valid reasons for this.
Think about it, as pet parents, we provide our dogs with food and a comfortable dog bed, and take them out for daily walks. They develop a deep reliance on us as their caregivers, which can lead to anxiety at the thought of something happening to us.
Identifying Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
If you’re on the fence about whether your pup has separation anxiety, you could keep an eye open for one or a combination of the following symptoms.
Barking and Howling
Excessive barking and howling are clear indicators that your dog is feeling anxious or annoyed.
It serves as their way of expressing frustration and letting those nearby know about their emotional state. Interestingly, this vocalization tends to subside when you are at home, making it challenging to recognize as an initial symptom.
Often, it's the neighbors who bring these concerns to your attention. In such cases, patience (with your pup) and understanding (your neighbor’s frustrations) are important.
Chewing, Digging, and Destruction
Dogs with separation anxiety tend to channel their frustration toward their immediate surroundings. They may dig holes in the backyard or chew on garden furniture.
If you notice these destructive behaviors in your dog, they are likely experiencing separation anxiety.
Despite your best efforts to create a secure and comforting home environment for your pup, there are instances where dogs with separation anxiety may attempt to escape.
This does not necessarily indicate dissatisfaction with the home you have provided; rather, it signifies their distress. Often, dogs jump over fences or dig their way out of the yard in an attempt to find you.
If your dog exhibits one or more of the aforementioned attention-seeking behaviors, you need to address their separation anxiety.
Later on, we’ll discuss exactly how to do that. But first, let’s look at another common reason that your dog has become more clingy than normal…Old age.
The Impact of Aging on Dogs
Let’s face it. No one likes getting old.
Everyday tasks seem to get a bit harder with age, from getting out of bed in the morning to looking after our personal hygiene. An elderly person may become dependent on a caregiver for everyday things. Don’t forget that aging dogs face many of the same issues as humans do.
As dogs age, they become increasingly dependent on their caregivers. They need physical and emotional support to function.
Your dog might be sticking closer than ever before simply because it realizes that it needs you to take care of it. So, in what areas would an older dog need your help?
Consider the following health issues that make an older dogs more reliant on their owners:
Cloudy eyes or difficulty seeing
An elderly dog may experience cloudy eyes, known as nuclear sclerosis. It can develop gradually, making it easy to miss at first.
While this condition is common in senior dogs and generally doesn't affect their vision, it's essential to be aware that it could also indicate cataracts or other eye diseases, which can be treated with the help of a veterinarian.
If your dog suddenly starts bumping into objects or struggles to locate toys or familiar items, it might be a sign of vision loss that requires attention from your local vet.
Slowing down or difficulty getting around
As dogs age, they may face challenges such as difficulty with stairs, joining you for car rides, or even getting up after a nap.
It's not uncommon for many dogs to slow down as they get older. However, if your dog suddenly has mobility issues, it could be due to medical problems like arthritis or other degenerative diseases.
A change in weight
Weight fluctuations are not uncommon in older, less active dogs. You may need to adjust their diet and exercise regimen to maintain a healthy weight. However, being attentive is equally important if your senior dog starts losing weight unexpectedly.
This weight loss could be caused by reduced muscle mass, which is a typical occurrence in old dogs. Alternatively, it might be due to factors like reduced appetite, poor nutrient absorption, or a digestive illness.
Suppose your dog experiences a significant loss of more than 10 percent of their body weight within a few months or even a year. In that case, you should consult your dog's veterinarian and a veterinary behaviorist for a comprehensive evaluation and guidance on the best course of action.
These are just three of the many possible physical challenges your dog will experience as it ages, and each one will make it more dependent on you. So pay attention to their body language and see how you can be more supportive in their golden years.
Easing Separation Anxiety
To support a beloved pet with separation anxiety, consider hiring a dog sitter to provide companionship and help ease their distress when you're away. A dog sitter can engage in interactive play and offer a comforting presence, easing both the pet parent's and dog's anxiety.
Maintain a consistent routine and environment. By sticking to regular schedules for feeding, walks, and playtime, you can create a sense of stability. Minimizing changes in their living space helps reduce distress, creating a comforting environment for your dog.
Engage in both mental and physical stimulation activities. Interactive puzzle toys, gentle training exercises, and slow-paced walks provide mental stimulation while reducing anxiety.
Incorporating fun activities like hide-and-seek with family members strengthens the bond between you and your dog, promoting a sense of security and reducing distress behaviors.
If s separation anxiety persists despite your efforts, consider getting help from a trained dog behaviorist. A qualified professional can assess your dog's specific needs and develop a tailored plan to address their anxiety. While
Teaching Your Dog Independence
What if you have a young or adolescent pup that is in the prime of its life but still feels the need to stick to you whenever you’re home?
From a physical and mental point of view, they don’t really need your constant care to deal with daily activities, so how do you get your pup to give you some personal space?
This is where independence training comes in. Just like you’d train a dog to obey basic commands like, sit, wait, and fetch, you can also train it to be more independent from you.
While at first, velcro dogs may be endearing, if you want a healthy, happy adult dog, you will need to train it to be independent.
Here’s how to go about it:
Gradual Separation Training
To start with separation training, begin by leaving your dog alone for short durations.
This could be as brief as a few minutes and gradually extend the time as they become more accustomed to being by themselves. The key is to go at your dog's pace and not rush the process.
By doing so, you allow them to build confidence and adapt to being alone without feeling overwhelmed.
To make alone time a positive experience, associate it with rewards. Leave your dog with special treats or interactive toys that they love.
By associating their alone time with something enjoyable, you're helping them develop a positive perception of being alone. Over time, they'll learn that being alone doesn't have to be scary or stressful.
There are various chew toys and puzzles available that can keep your dog busy and entertained.
Consider interactive toys that require problem-solving skills or food-dispensing toys that provide mental stimulation and reward their efforts. These types of toys can grab a dog’s attention for extended periods and encourage independent play.
You could also include your dog in interactive play sessions that can also stimulate their mind and tire them out. Take some time each day to play games like fetch or hide-and-seek. Not only will this help burn off some excess energy, but it will also create a positive bond between you and your dog.
Establishing a Safe Space
To help your dog cope with stress and feel secure, it's important for dog owners to establish a designated safe space.
Choose an area in your home, such as a crate or a specific room, and ensure it's comfortable with their favorite bedding, toys, and water. Gradually introduce your dog to this space, allowing them to explore it at their own pace.
Use positive reinforcement, like treats and praise, to create a positive association with their safe space. Remember, the safe space should never be used as a form of punishment. Instead, it should be a place where your dog feels relaxed and secure.
Over time, your dog will learn to recognize this area as their own and willingly seek it out when they need some quiet time or a break from the outside world.
In conclusion, understanding why dogs suddenly become inseparable from their owners regardless of age is key to addressing their needs.
By gradually implementing separation training, promoting self-entertainment, and creating a safe and comfortable space, you can help your furry companion feel more at ease in their own company.
Remember, seeking professional help from a dog behaviorist is always an option if the issue persists. With patience, love, and a tailored approach, you can strengthen the bond with your canine friend while ensuring they develop confidence and independence.