How To Help A Dog That Has Separation Anxiety
Being apart from a loved one isn’t easy. From fear and anger to despair and hopelessness, there’s a range of emotions that can manifest in someone when they can’t be physically near someone they love. Known as “separation anxiety disorder,” it’s a common mental health obstacle anyone can fall prey to—particularly infants and children as they learn to navigate life apart from their parents.
Many of us consider separation anxiety to be solely a “human problem,” but that’s not actually the case. Though they wear permanent fursuits and walk on all fours, dogs can also struggle with separation anxiety. It’s simply their natural response to spending time apart from their attachment figure.
Although it may be natural, it’s not necessarily healthy—or humane—for a dog to experience it long-term.
Robyn Watford knows this. A proud dog parent to three miniature dachshunds (Scout, Chipper, and John—aka Johnny Taco), she has learned through trial-and-error how to keep her pups comfortable when she’s not at home or can’t bring them along with her.
Her secret? CBD pet products—which demonstrate the ability to relieve symptoms of anxiety in dogs (without making them dopey).
As Robyn puts it: “They deserve to be happy and relaxed and comfortable every moment of their lives for all they’ve given to me.”
What Is Separation Anxiety?
As its name suggests, separation anxiety is no party. It brings a complex bag of emotions that can affect one physically, mentally, socially, professionally, and more. It can haunt one during sleep, manifesting as nightmares, and can weigh on one’s psyche even well after they’ve been reunited with the person they love.
A dog’s separation anxiety can be particularly rough on them. Common triggers that may lead to developing symptoms of the disorder include being abandoned or surrendered to a shelter, living out on the streets, losing their owner, or getting a new owner out of the blue. Even purebreds or dogs that have had the same owner since puppyhood may fall victim to it, particularly if there is an abrupt change in their owner’s schedule or home life.
Unlike humans, dogs cannot tell us what’s wrong or how they’re feeling. Though they often leave signs and clues hinting to us of their anxiety, it’s up to the dog owner to be alert and sympathetic enough to recognize a problem and do something about it by observing the dog's behavior.
For their first six years, Robyn and Scout (her first dachshund) lived in bliss—completely unaware of the potential dangers of dog separation anxiety. It wasn’t until Robyn adopted her next miniature dachshund, Chipper, that Scout’s behavior began to change.
“She saw my time with her had begun to be shared with Chipper, and she coveted that much more,” Robyn says. “I believe this is what led to new feelings of nervousness when I did have to leave her.”
Chipper, it turned out, suffered from canine separation anxiety, as well. Unlike Scout, it wasn’t a disruption to his routine that triggered mental health issues, but rather (Robyn believes) just a quirk he was born with.
“He was much less independent than Scout from the start and developed a quick and real infatuation with the mommy instantly,” she explains. “He feels very protective of me, and I believe his separation anxiety stems from him knowing he temporarily can’t protect me.”
As for her third and most recent dachshund, John, Robyn has been pleasantly surprised by his lack of emotional distress when she leaves him at home. Describing him as “the most calm, chill, relaxed, and happy-to-be-alive pup on the planet,” she notes Johnny Taco doesn’t seem to fall into despair like Scout and Chipper when left alone.
But he’s not entirely without his struggles. Car rides give him severe anxiety—and for that, Robyn treats him with CBD pet products, as well.
What Are Signs of Separation Anxiety?
A dog’s anxiety can manifest in several ways, although some behavioral traits are more common than others. Some of the telltale signs of a dog in the throes of despair due to not being with its owner include:
- Excessive barking and howling
- Urinating and defecating
- Destructive behavior, such as chewing, digging, or destroying items in the home
- Escape attempts
- Hyper greetings, excessive salivation, panting, or drooling when the owner returns home
Of course, every dog is unique, so the response to being left alone varies from pup to pup. For instance, Robyn figured out that when she left her dogs at home, Scout resorted to destructive chewing, attacking mostly pillows and the couch. Chipper became a howler, releasing one plaintive bark for every ten seconds Robyn was gone until she returned home.
“This concerned me because if I were gone for one hour, he’d bark for one hour. If I were gone for five hours, he’d bark for five hours. Hearing the little raspy hoarseness in his voice after I came home and for the next day let me know I absolutely had to find some relief for him.”
How To Help Your Dog Overcome Stress
Here’s the good news: there’s an answer for separation anxiety. And some more good news? There’s more than one way to treat this anxiety disorder! The hardest part is just figuring out what trick works best for your pup.
The first thing to try would be behavior modification. Try training your dog to learn new behaviors (and unlearn bad ones). Try giving your dog a special treat each time you leave, ideally one that involves time and effort to consume—such as a tube-shaped toy filled with peanut butter. Tiring your dog out with exercise before leaving the house can be helpful, as well as investing in enrichment toys that’ll keep them occupied while you’re gone. Leaving out some worn clothing that has your scent on it can also be comforting, almost as if you’ve left a piece of yourself behind with your dog. Crate training or creating a special confined space for your dog to stay in while you’re out can minimize symptoms of anxiety, as well. Another successful practice is changing the way you act when you leave and return home. Try to exit subtly and quietly, without making a big deal about it—then do the same upon your return.
As you experiment by trial-and-error to find what ways work best to calm your dog, it’s important to remain patient with your furry family and not punish them if what you’re trying isn’t working. Take comfort in knowing that there are other answers to keep your dog calm while you’re away. If you are still learning how to keep stress under control for yourself, knowing your pup is okay while at home alone helps.
If training proves unhelpful, don’t fret! There are other treatment options out there that can help. Remember, it’s never a bad idea to consult your dog’s veterinarian before trying something new.
After crating her dogs failed to help ease their isolation distress, Robyn looked into using Lazarus Naturals CBD products for pets on Scout and Chipper. She’d heard of people who had given the naturally effective products to their pets with great success, so decided it was time to try her luck.
In Robyn’s experience, miniature dachshunds tend to be picky eaters—yet Scout and Chipper happily slurped up the Classic Calming Pet CBD Oil Tinctures she got for them.
What’s more, it helped! Robyn’s dogs became more relaxed and less affected by their owner’s comings and goings. Now when she comes home, Robyn is excitedly greeted by happy pups (whose voices aren’t hoarse from non-stop barking). Not to mention, she doesn’t have to clean up pillow fluff from her floors anymore!
How CBD Can Help With Separation Anxiety
CBD is a naturally occurring molecule beloved by humans and pet owners alike for its many uses—improving a host of maladies including, but not limited to, mobility, appetite, and mood.
Studies show that CBD can have a positive impact on separation anxiety because of the way in which it influences brain chemistry. By inducing synaptic plasticity (which controls the brain’s learning and memory functions) and facilitating neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons), CBD can have an anxiolytic effect on a patient—helping them overcome feelings of anxiety, fear, dread, and uneasiness.
In addition to CBD, there are also anti-anxiety medications meant to help an anxious dog. Such medications have a similar neurological approach to treating symptoms of separation anxiety. However, those most often require prescriptions from a doctor and can have side effects (which is why Robyn opted not to try them—preferring natural relief from CBD instead).
“The longevity of my dogs’ lives is my very first priority,” she says, “and I hated the idea of medicating them and giving their livers more work to do.”
Robyn’s daily routine now goes as such: Approximately an hour before she leaves the house, she gives Scout and Chipper a dose of Classic Calming Pet CBD Oil Tincture. Her other pup (Johnny Taco) gets CBD, but since he doesn’t struggle with separation anxiety, she gives him our tasty Wild Salmon Pet CBD Oil Tincture to support overall health and well-being.
“It seems like with all three of our pups, it takes around 30 to 45 minutes [for the CBD] to kick in,” she says. “Then they become relaxed and happy.” In short, it wouldn’t hurt to let your pet try some CBD pet products that may ease their anxiety.
Separation anxiety isn’t fun to deal with, but it’s understandable. At its most basic level, it’s a testimony of love—its severity determined by the intensity of one’s affection for the thing or person they are missing.
But love doesn’t have to hurt. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Whether you’re a human or a dog suffering from separation anxiety, there are plenty of options that may improve your condition—so long as you’re willing to give them a try.