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How Can Dog Trainers And Behavior Specialists Help Veterinary Pain Specialists?

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    Veterinary pain practitioners, trainers, and behavior specialists have the same goal: to help animals live better lives. Fear Free Certified trainers have vowed to employ methods that “protect and enhance the physical and mental welfare of animals.” This commitment involves, among other things, assisting animals in experiencing as little suffering as possible. Although trainers are not medical experts and cannot diagnose or prescribe medicines, we may nevertheless utilize our knowledge to assist pain practitioners in their work with animals.

    female dog trainer surrounding by a group of dogs

    We Are Spending More

    Dog training has always been seen as a luxury for pet owners over the years due to the expense that comes with it. And that wasn’t the only thing. It used to even be viewed that pain medication and pain management therapies for dogs were luxuries. But, due to the increase in the human-animal bond, more pet owners are putting more time and money into their pets, especially if it means relieving their pain. Quality of life has become a priority for many pet owners instead of just trying to keep them alive. More and more pet owners are ready to spend money on pain relievers and other complementary therapies to increase their dogs’ comfort and enjoyment of daily activities.

    The bewildering array of pet nutrition supplements and “remedies” that have popped up over the last decade (some with clinical proof and many others without) demonstrates that owners are prepared to spend more money than ever before in order to help their dogs and help them live a better life. But, in the end, not all pet owners can recognize clinical signs of pain in their dogs. Yes, they might know the more obvious signs and be quick to rush their pet to the vet if they are whimpering or limping but many pets in pain, especially chronic pain, do not show obvious signs. Due to survival instinct, dogs are likely to hide their pain or exhibit more subtle symptoms which get overlooked. Things such as dogs taking a while to stand after a nap and acting stiff are usually just seen as a dog being tired.

    Where Trainers and Behavior Specialists Come In


    Fear Free’s purpose, and that of its certified trainers is to prevent and reduce fear, anxiety, and stress. There is lots of evidence that pain generates fear, worry, and stress. Trainers alone will not be able to accomplish the objective of relieving an animal’s stress if it is caused by physical discomfort. They require the assistance of a veterinarian who is experienced in managing discomfort. Usually, trainers and behavior specialists are able to recognize the signs of pain in dogs and more acute to change in their behavior than standard dog owners such as noticing a slight change in the way they walk or stand. The sooner the pain is recognized, the sooner your dog can get the help they need.

    • Skilled behavior specialists and trainers are both proficient in putting into words how a dog is acting in such a way that indicates pain. For example, when the dog is walking strangely, they may be able to describe what they see as “He isn’t bear weight on his left hind leg and walking with an unsteady gait.” This is more helpful than just “my dog is walking different.” and allows a vet to know where to start. They can also recommend when a dog should be taken to a vet based on wha they observe. 
    • Trainers usually see their clients more often than a vet does as training is usually done on a more regular basis compared to annual exams. Therefore, they can easily recognize a change in the dog. They can typically notice when a dog is doing something they don’t usually do or vice versa. For example, the dog may be refusing to do a trick they usually have no problem doing. This could be a pain indicator.
    •  Dog owners often seek out the advice of their trainer when their dog is acting different to see what they think about ut. This can often be when a dog is suddenly doing something “naughty” or acting unlike themselves. They might be getting peeing on the rug or not letting you leash them up. What someone might think is just their dog being bad, a trainer can see that as an indicator that something is seriously wrong.
    • Once the veterinary team has begun a pain management treatment, trainers and behavior specialists can utilize their observation abilities to assist the client in monitoring the animal’s behavior for changes that may be beneficial to the veterinary team in evaluating if a certain therapy is effective. The trainers  are less vulnerable to any placebo effect because it is not their animal, and are more likely to detect an improvement (or deterioration) if they only visit the animal once a week rather than every day like the owner of the dog does.
    • If a dog has crate rest or other post-operative exercise restrictions, most trainers and behavior specialists have a plethora of terrific low-movement, low-energy enrichment options to offer clients. The trainers can assist keep pets happy and quiet while they recuperate, as well as keep them from becoming bored. They may also assist the dog owner in ensuring that the animal does not “overdo it.”
    male vet examining a german shepherd

    Trainers can assist pain practitioners in achieving the mutual goal of improving animals’ overall wellbeing by using our own observation skills, teaching mutual clients to become more keen observers of their pets’ behaviors, encouraging them to seek veterinary guidance sooner, and providing enrichment ideas. By reducing their pain, we also reduce their tension, which is at the core of Fear Free’s purpose!

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    Best 10 Anxiety Relief Products for Dogs You Need to Try

    More than 70% of dogs have anxiety issues of one kind or another according to a study done in Finland of 13,715 pet dogs of 264 different breeds. It can be heartbreaking seeing your dog in distress over events such as storms, fireworks, vet visits, car rides, and more. We’ve put together some of our favorite anxiety relief products for dogs to help both them and you.

    1. Calmeroos Puppy Heartbeat Toy Sleep Aid

    Price: $37.99

    Calmeroos are an excellent way to calm puppies by allowing them to recreate the experience of cuddling with their mom and littermates. Each Calmeroo has a pouch in it that contains both a heat pack and mechanical heartbeat to replicate their mother and helps them feel calm, happy, and at ease making them an effective anxiety relief product for dogs.

    via Amazon
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    I bought this product just before picking up my new puppy from the breeder. I brought it with me and rubbed it on my puppy's mother to get her scent. The first night I put her in with the "faux mom", my puppy cried for about 5 minutes, then settled down. She slept the whole night without making a sound. She still sleeps with it every night, and I have not had a problem with her crying because she is lonely. I've had other puppies, and getting them use to sleeping alone at night was always a challenge. This is the best thing on the market. I would recommend it to anyone bringing home a new pet.

    2. Sport ThunderShirt for Dogs

    Price: Starting at $44.95

    The ThunderShirt SPORT is a sleek and effective way to alleviate anxiety, panic, and over-excitement. The breathable jacket is designed for comfort, with washable, durable fabric, contrasting trim, and reflective logos for safer evening walks. ThunderShirt offers the most advanced patented pressure wrap design on the market. ThunderShirt, like swaddling a child, is clinically shown to reduce anxiety, panic, and over-excitement.

    via Chewy
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    I have an 8 yr old English Foxhound who is very afraid of thunder. When she hears thunder (which I haven't heard yet), she sits in front of me and whines for her ThunderShirt to be put on and then she is instantly much calmer. Of course she still shivers a bit if there is thunder that cracks overhead, but it definitely helps her! ADVICE for people about to order!! Google measurement for Thundershirt and measure around the chest like you're strapping your dog into a seat belt. Saved me from accidentally getting a large.

    3. VETCBD 20:1 Formulation

    Price: Varies per Location

    VETCBD is the first CBD for pets and was created by a veterinarian. VetCBD is a tincture with small amounts of THC. This makes it more effective in providing relief from anxiety, pain, muscle spasms, nausea, and loss of appetite.

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    I have never commented on any products ever, but this one deserves it. My sweet 170# English Mastiff started having ocular seizures in 2017. He was put on phenobarbital which messed him up really bad and didn’t work. Then he was put on keppra which didn’t work either. I love my vet but they didn’t want to even entertain the idea of using CBD. After his last appointment she said he was having way to many seizures (I take notes about every seizure). I came home and a friend made me try it. Zeus has not had any seizures in 2 months. This is the only brand that I trust. I thank the producer from the bottom of my heart for helping me with my baby.

    4. Pet Acoustics Pet Tunes Calming Music Dog Speaker


    With the Pet Acoustics Pet Tunes Calming Music Dog Speaker, you can help your pet tune into a tranquil, stress-free state of mind. This Bluetooth® speaker is pre-loaded with 90 minutes of music created by a sound behaviorist to help dogs cope with stress and anxiety. The doggy music is clinically proven and veterinarian-approved to assist decrease stress-related behaviors like excessive barking and pacing, which can occur when your pooch is home alone, during thunderstorms, when traveling, or when he is adjusting to new situations.

    via Chewy
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    My dog gets so anxious during storms that he trembles. I’ve tried a thunder coat, supplements, etc, nothing helped. This music does the trick. After a few minutes with it, he stops shaking, lays his head down, and relaxes. I LOVE this product.

    5. Best Friends by Sheri The Original Calming Shag Fur Donut Bed

    Price: $17.48

    With this Luxury Shag Donut Self-Heating pet bed, you can provide your beloved companion with the pleasant sleep t dheyeserves. The round shape provides a safe environment, while the bolstered edge provides additional orthopedic support and well as a paw-sitively purr-fect headrest. Warmth is radiated from your pet’s own body heat via the unique insulating layer. It’s machine washable and dryer friendly, and it’s made of a soft faux-shag material that will keep your pet warm, toasty, and comfortable.

    via Chewy
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    As I write this review, my 20-lb cavalier/beagle rescue pup is in his BFS bed sleeping as soundly as I've seen in the two weeks that I've had him. This was a desperation purchase and I just wasn't totally sold on the advertised calming effect. The expensive Orvis bed with bolsters that I bought has been a big "meh" for my pup as has the LL Bean oval dog bed. Every time I'd get up from my desk, he'd get up and follow me. Every noise he heard would make him get up and bark. This BFS bed is a serious game changer. He's out like a light. 1 hour and counting!

    6. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements Calming Care

    Price: $49.99

    Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Supplements Calming Care contains a type of helpful bacteria that has been demonstrated to aid dogs in maintaining a calm temperament. Purina nutritionists, researchers, and veterinarians collaborated on the science behind these therapeutic products.

    via Chewy
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    I adopted a senior dog who struggles with anxiety. His anxiety was so bad that he would break out of his crate and then if we left him out he would chew the door handles and scratch through the drywall. My vet recommended we try this as a more natural option opposed to medication. This has helped my guy a ton! He still has his personality but lost most of his anxious behavior. I can tell when i take him for walks he is more calm and not crazy after seeing or hearing any little thing. I recently ran out and forgot to order right away so we went a few days without it. What a difference, his walks have been rough since he now is all nervous with the sounds and sights again. I do have him on a low level medication for when we leave the house, but this daily powder has saved us! I was truly nervous my guy would hurt himself if i didn't find something quick. Life Saver!! After some research, I realized she might just be a nervous dog. I discovered this wonderful calming collar. So far it's working wonders! Lucy is now being calm, loving, quiet and even considerate to my sister's old dog.

    7. Best Friends by Sheri Luxury Shag Dog & Cat Throw Blanket

    Price: $23.92

    The Best Friends by Sheri Shag Blanket mimics a dog’s mother’s fur which can help relax them and aid in comfort and security while providing warmth. It can be used in their bed, create, the couch and it’s easy to travel within the car for road trips.

    Charlie S.
    via Amazon
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    I have 3 dogs. 2 older ones and a younger monkey butt just shy of 2 years old in full teenage rebellion phase with his crate time. He was diagnosed with underlying insecurity/situational anxiety + Impact of arousal. With that in mind, this blanket arrived today. After his dinner I put it in his crate. He gave me 1 whine. Settled. He's out. No rebellion. I'm eating. Does't matter (always does). Will update this review if this initial lack of drama is a fluke but right now it's a dream come true. At first he chomped on the fur but after a worded correction he stopped. When I approached to take the pic that got his attention. I opened the kennel dog. He went to get a drink. Went straight back to crate. 5 stars on account of chilling out lil monkey butt

    8. Solliquin Behavior Supplement for Dogs

    Price: $32.83

    These chewable pills assist to maintain healthy behavior by including a unique combination of l-theanine, floral extracts, and whey protein. So, whether your pet is apprehensive about new people, fearful of car rides, or startled by loud noises, these daily chews can help them calm and sleep during stressful circumstances. Solliquin is part of a complete treatment strategy, and when paired with training and patience, it may help avoid anxiety-related behavioral issues such as excessive barking, panting, and over-grooming.

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    Honestly these work pretty well, and they do what they're supposed to. I feel like people have really high expectations for calming vitamins. They're not sedatives, and you shouldn't want your dog to be sedated in the first place. Obviously this doesn't make my dog's anxiety disappear, but it definitely makes him less triggered by things that would normally upset him. He has pretty horrible anxiety and went through a phase where he cried/barked/howled the entire night... like the ENTIRE night for 6 months. Since then/for the past 2 years his anxiety comes in waves and is completely unpredictable. I've used Solliquin with him for the past 5 months and it has helped regulate his anxiety. He is less on edge and can actually function much better. I am super grateful for it and I think that it can be a great supplement to use alongside training!

    9. Zesty Paws Core Elements Calming Supplement

    Price: $29.97

    Zesty Paws Calming Bites are excellent chewables that may aid dogs suffering from normal tension, anxiousness, and hyperactivity in remaining calm and at peace! Suntheanine, an improved version of L-Theanine, and Sensoril Ashwagandha are included in this functional dog supplement. These innovative compounds work together to promote your canine pet’s relaxation, tranquillity, attention, and clarity. Additionally, Chamomile, Valerian Root, and L-Tryptophan are included in these soft chews to help soothe and relax your pet.

    via Chewy
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    I tried these in the past and couldn't really tell if they worked. I ordered them for a foster dog I had coming up who the shelter said had crate anxiety. He destroyed 2 regular non heavy duty crates traveling to vet for heart worm treatment. Gave treats to him 30ish min before leaving for work for several days, watched him on pup cam as I drove to work, he whimpered a bit for a few min but then was fine. Ok let's go to Wednesday, I'm off and another rescue volinteer/foster needs food, so I took food over to her house about 30 min away. Didn't even think to give him these treats because I was just quick running out. Watched him on pup cam and he screamed, whaled, and howled the ENTIRE hour I was gone! No doubt he'd have busted out if not in lions crate!!! So yup these treats work because he didn't act like that the times I left after giving him the treats!!! It's not his crate causing anxiety because he'll go in on his own to chew bones or hang out. He has severe separation anxiety!

    10. Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mat Dog Lick Mat

    Price: $7.95

    The Hyper Pet IQ Treat Mat is a dog slow feeder lick mat that increases relaxation while they enjoy their favorite snack from the textured surface, relieving anxiety and boredom in your dog. It can be used during thunderstorms, fireworks, bathtime, nail trimming, vet visits, and more. Choose your dog’s favorite treat to smooth over the surface. For an even longer-lasting treat, freeze it beforehand.

    via Chewy
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    A nice mid day treat. I have a reactive dog and two other anxious dogs and this was the perfect mid day treat that kept them occupied for 20 or so minutes. I put peanut butter, chicken, and blueberries and froze it so it would take longer. It’s not bad to clean, just keep that old toothbrush by the sink and use it to scrub it all out. 10/10 recommend and I already sent to all my friends.
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    Benefits of Playing Fetch With Your Dog

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      Fetch isn’t just a fun game to play with your dog but it actually presents multiple benefits for both owner and dog! Some benefits of playing fetch with dogs might be surprising to you as it’s more than just exercise. Plus, we also offer alternatives to fetch that are just as beneficial!

      Improve Behavior and Enhance Mood

      Fetch is just one of many games you can play with your dog to help improve their mood and behavior. This is done by wearing them out and a worn-out dog is less likely to be destructive and anxious. Plus, certain breeds need some kind of “job” and fetch can be treated like a job to them. Even more so, the attention you give them while playing fetch can also increase their mood. They love the attention you’re giving them and you can see that in the nonstop tail wagging as they bring the toy back to you each time.

      owner playing fetch with dog in field

      Promote Their Physical Wellbeing

      Fetch is an excellent way to keep your dog healthy! Not everyone can take their dog out for daily walks and playing fetch is a great way for dogs to get the exercise they need. Regular exercise is key in preventing obesity in dogs which can then lead to numerous other health problems like osteoarthritis.

      Because they may be lying down all day while you’re at work, being able to play or go outside can assist preserve their healthy organs and lubricate their joints

      Mental Stimulation

      Fetch is a way to help stimulate your dog mentally. It helps build both their focus and concentration, especially if they need to find the toy that you’re using. 

      Strengthen Your Bond

      Being able to spend time with your dog, whether it’s for a simple stroll or a game of fetch at your local park, can help you bond with them. It’s one of the numerous advantages of spending time with your dog.

      Spending quality time with your cherished canine companion will assist to deepen your bond of love and friendship. You provide them the opportunity to have fun while also helping to gain their trust and loyalty. They’ll start to think of you as the one who makes their lives better.

      This relationship also aids in the development of trust when you go about your daily routine and must leave your animal for long periods of time. When your dog is content and trusts you, he is less likely to engage in undesirable behavior.

      woman sitting on the ground with golden retriever standing on her lap

      Anxiety Relief

      Giving dogs something that they can focus and concentrate on can give them anxiety relief. Spending time with them might also reduce their anxieties as well as give them a more relaxed disposition. It may also help them cope with anxiety and stress in their life, especially if they are left home during the day while you’re at work.

      It’s Good For You Too

      All of the advantages your dog may enjoy during playtime might also be beneficial to you! If you’ve had a hard day at the office, playing catch with your dog when you come home is a great way to relieve tension. It’s a moment when you can put your phone, social media, and other distractions aside and focus only on your dog. And, of course, the relationship you form with your dog during playtime and fetch will continue for the rest of their lives, as well as yours.

      Alternatives to Fetch That Your Dog May Love

      Flirt Poles

      Flirt poles are ideal for when the weather is bad and you can’t play outside, in apartments, or in tiny yards. They get your dog moving about, playing with their toy, and amusing you as much as they do themselves. Flirt poles also aid in the development of abilities like impulse control and coordination.

      Photo Credit: Fit For a Pit

      Dog Chews

      corgi chewing on a bully stick

      Dog chews like bully sticks or Himalayan dog chews are a great way to keep your dog entertained and occupied even if it’s more of an engagement activity compared to fetch. Plus, it’s another alternative to keeping your dog entertained during bad weather. Dogs should only be given chews under supervision.


      Some dogs like jumping and displaying their agility by playing frisbee. Similarly to fetch, you should begin by throwing little objects and gradually raise the complexity of your throws. Also, before each game, inspect your frisbee for cracks or chips to avoid scratching your dog or their mouth!

      beagle playing fetch with a frisbee in a field

      Snuffle and Licks Mats

      Photo Credit: Happy Dog Barkery

      Snuffle and lick mats are a great form of mental stimulation for dogs. You can purchase them or even DIY your own snuffle and lick mats

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      Depression in Dogs and What To Do About It

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        Dogs can’t tell us how they are feeling and whether they are in pain, either physical or emotional. Sometimes, certain conditions are more fairly obvious due to the symptoms shown or physical changes. But, emotional pain in dogs can be a different story. In dogs, depression can be hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

        What are the Signs of Depression in Dogs?

        Symptoms of depression in dogs vary per dog as well as depending on the severity of the depression. When dogs are suffering from depression, they will usually have a change in body language with people and other pets. They might also show signs of decreased appetite, lethargy, and acting sluggish. A very common reason owners think their dog has depression is due to not being as playful and not eager to take part in their usual activities like going for daily walks or going to the park. They might also lose interest soon after starting an activity.

        Photo Credit: AMR Image/Getty Images

        Make Sure Something Else Isn’t Going On

        The signs of depression in dogs similarly align with other physical conditions. For example, lethargy and loss of appetite are also symptoms of Immune-mediated Polyarthritis and Septic Arthritis. If a dog is showing any signs of abnormal behavior, it’s important to have them checked out by a veterinarian to rule out any physical conditions going on that need to be treated. Sometimes, chronic pain they may be suffering could also be causing the signs of depression. 

        Usual Causes of Depression in Dogs

        Dogs can develop depression just like humans can. It can be something they are predisposed to due to the chemicals in their brain or it can be triggered by a life-altering event. Dogs have been known to go into depression when another pet in the household or owner has passed away, there has been a big move or just a general lifestyle change. For the lifestyle change, an example might be that you go back to work in an office after working remotely for 2 years. 

        If a dog is showing signs of depression, it’s imperative to look back on any major life or environmental changes in their life and your household. That might just be the clue you need to get to the bottom of the cause and start working on treatment. Depression is more often than not, context-specific.

        Common triggers of depression in dogs may include: 

        • Chronic pain
        • Physical or emotional trauma
        • Grief from the loss of a loved one or another pet in the household
        • Environmental changes like moving, rehoming or introducing a new family member such as a baby or pet
        • Not enough physical or mental stimulation

        Many dogs who come out of horrible situations like hoarding make up some of the most severe cases of depression. But in the end, the whole concept of emotional pain for dogs is still being discovered and studied as there are dogs who seem to be given the best care, with no emotional trauma and plenty of physical/mental stimulation and still suffer from depression which is often a result of genetics. There could also be trauma in your dog’s life that you don’t know about if you adopted them later on in their life. Extreme anxiety can also result in certain behaviors that lead to depression.

        What is the Treatment for Depression in Dogs?

        When it comes to treating depression in dogs, it can be important to find the actual trigger of their depression. If you can pinpoint what changed in their life, you may be able to make some changes to help your dog. For example, if they lost an animal companion, a new one might help. If you had to go back to the office, you could try having more special bonding time with your dog. 

        If the depression is more of a long-term issue with no identifiable trigger, they may need extra help that you can’t provide on your own. It is suggested to get advice from a dog behavior specialist who may also recommend prescription medications (just like with humans). Prescriptions are usually only given to improve the dog’s quality of life. 

        Also, many dogs who have this long-term depression may have the inability to learn new behaviors or have a negative quality of life due to it and prescription pharmaceuticals may help that. Some triggers may also be unavoidable. For example, a dog who has severe thunderstorm anxiety and lives in an area that has constant thunderstorms can slip into a depression and medication may be the only thing to really help. 

        Overall treatment plans aren’t just pharmaceuticals but also environmental management and behavior modification instead of just one of these three options by themselves.

        If you think your dog is suffering from depression, you may want to visit the vet or you can find a behavior specialist near you in our specialist directory! 

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        With In-Person Work Returning, Nearly Two-thirds of Pet Owners Worry About Their Pet’s Stress Levels, Harris Poll Finds


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        Pets and the Pandemic: Separation Anxiety

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          It’s no secret that there has been a huge surge in pet adoptions and purchases during the pandemic as people are home more, get lonely, and want the company of a pet companion. A survey by Rover showed that 93% of people who got a “pandemic pet felt that their mental and/or physical well-being improved. The result? An epidemic of pets with separation anxiety. The amount of adoptions has been so great that certain animal shelters started running out of animals! Here are the stats from that same Rover survey:

          • Of the people who adopted in the last year, 53% brought home a dog, 32% a cat, and 14% both a dog and cat.
          • 64% of pet parents adopted (40% from a rescue or nonprofit organization and 24% from another family).
          • 26% of pet parents purchased their cat or dog from a breeder
          sir Patrick Stewart and wife with puppies
          Photo Credit: Charlie Nunn Photography

          Unfortunately, since everyone has been home so often, our pets have gotten used to that. They have gotten used to us working from home 5 days a week and barely leaving the house. Especially in young puppies, this behavior can create separation anxiety for dogs. Separation anxiety is the anxiety or panic an animal feels when separated from their human. This could happen immediately after separation or after a few hours. Rover stated that: 

          • Nearly half of those surveyed (40%) reported they were anxious about going back to in-person work and leaving their pet at home.
          • 20% of respondents have already left their pet during the day to go to work. 
          • 43% anticipate their first commute away from their pet to be between March-June 2021.
          • An outlier 9% think they will continue to work from home past October 2021.
          Brittany spaniel dog looking out a window with chin on window sill looking sad

          How Do I Know If My Pet Has Separation Anxiety?

          Some dogs don’t understand that when you leave, it means you’re coming back due to their cognitive abilities. The most frequent symptoms of separation anxiety are vocalizing, salivation, disruptive behavior, particularly near exits such as doors and windows, urination or defecation indoors/in undesirable places, loss of appetite while alone, self-trauma such as licking or chewing when alone, and attempted or active escapes. Action such as attempting to escape can be very dangerous and result in injury. Please note that this applies to any dog that may have separation anxiety, not just “pandemic pets”.

          boston terrier detroys door

          How Can I Prepare My Pets? 

          After months up to a year of your new dog being by your side, how do you ensure they don’t completely destroy your home when you’re at work or continuously cry and howl?  To start, dogs, in general, need both physical and mental stimulation in order to tire themselves out. This is the first step when it comes to making sure your pet will be fine when home alone. Before leaving, take them for a long walk or play fetch in the backyard. Provide them enrichment puzzles or something like a frozen Kong filled with peanut butter to keep them occupied. Crate training also gives your pets a safe space while you are away while also preventing them from destruction or attempts to escape. 

          dog playing with outward hound puzzle

          You will also want to teach your pet how to be on their own and not freak out when you’re not around and to not even need the tools mentioned above. This is called Independence Training which can be done on your own or with the help of a certified trainer. You can find a certified trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Independence Training allows the pet to be at ease as the owner leaves or goes out, and to rest without having their owner around 24/7, plus hyper-attachment can be reduced as a result of this. When working on Independence Training, you will want to work on letting your dog nap or relax during the day in a certain location.

          You may also want to provide them a treat or chew in this desired location. Once the pet is comfortable, give positive reinforcement and continue on with what you are doing around the house to show they don’t need to be by your side. Depending on the severity of the separation anxiety, this may need to be done at a slower pace. The Downtime exercise lets your dog develop and sustain the habit of spending time alone. Another part of Independence Training is teaching “go to place” which is effective in teaching your pet to go to a desired location on their own without your assistance. 

          duck tolling retreiver on a dog bed under a blanket

          Also, don’t make it a big deal when you leave. This can just add to your dog’s anxiety and cause them to become hyperactive. Dog’s can become accustomed to certain sounds or actions that indicate you are leaving, which can cause distress. Work on making these actions not a big deal by doing things like picking up your keys throughout the day, putting your shoes on and not leaving the house, and continue on with your daily activities. The overall goal is to stop having a connection between departure signals and fear about being alone in the pet’s head. Practicing these strategies for pets that aren’t having separation anxiety will help prevent them from developing it in the future, which is particularly important given that our schedules might be dramatically altered.

          Once your dog is able to stay in a location, work on practice separations by putting them in place and leaving the room for short periods of time. Issue positive reinforcement when your dog stays and remains calm. Eventually, you can start building on longer separation that includes leaving the house. A pet camera is also a useful tool to ensure your dog is staying calm without you.

          Can I Give My Dog Anything Else to Help With Separation Anxiety?

          There are supplements that can help relieve stress and anxiety, both over-the-counter medication/supplements and veterinary prescribed medication. Your vet should be consulted before giving your dog any kind of medication or supplement. You can review product recommendations for stress relief here!

          dog being given a pill for separation anxiety

          Your veterinarian may also be able to give recommendations in cases of separation anxiety ranging from mild to severe.

          Find a board-certified behaviorist near you!