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After years of raising dogs, we're experiencing separation anxiety and PTSD for the first time. And, yeah, you read that right – we have a non-military dog with PTSD. After doing everything wrong, I spoke with our veterinarian who put us on the right path and it worked!
Apollo joined our family in August 2019. Before joining us, he was left alone a lot because in his previous home, his human worked long hours daily. J and I also work fulltime jobs and this posed a problem.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a condition where a dog becomes extremely anxious when their human leaves the house. The anxiety can be expressed through barking and whining, destructive behavior, or self-harm and begins to manifest from immediately after departure or within 30 minutes of leaving a dog alone.
With our dog, the separation anxiety presented with destructive behavior. Anything that he could reach was going to be shredded and we worried about the stress he was under, the stress he was causing our other dogs, and the home.
How We Manage Separation Anxiety
Keep in mind that our solutions are working partly because we have five dogs. So although the humans are leaving the house, none of our dogs are alone. If you have a dog that will be left alone in the house, you may have to look into additional care.
1 – Invest in Security Cameras
Besides having a sick dog, having a dog with separation anxiety was stressful for everyone in the house. One thing that helped ME deal with the stress and worry was to install interior and exterior security cameras that I could check via apps on my phone. With these cameras, I learned that the puppy could bet out of the yard, and that, when left in the house, the dogs sleep most of the day.
Recommended Security Cameras
2 – Leave the Dog Home for Short Periods
We started by leaving Apollo home with the other dogs for an hour or two at a time. This was our attempt to show him that we'll always come back. This didn't work out the way we anticipated, however, we did learn his threshold, how long he could be home without flipping the hell out, and we were able to slowly extend the time over a few months.
When we had to leave him at home for longer periods of time, we made adjustments to our lives to reduce the time he was without a human in the home. For example, I now go to work an hour earlier.
3 – Don't Make a Production Out of Leaving
The first piece of advice I received was not to make a production out of leaving. Don't hug, coddle, and baby the dog before leaving. This behavior rewards and heightens his stress and anxiety.
So, when I leave, I give the dogs a treat and say “Bye, Y'all,” and hit the road. I want to turn the idea of me leaving into a positive experience for our dogs.
I'm not a fan of giving my dogs bully sticks or anything else that can pose a choking hazard. Granted any treat can be a risk, however, I found one treat that I'm comfortable giving to my dogs – fish skin treats. I like the crunchy ones – the dogs don't eat it right away (plenty of time to get out the door), but they aren't long term chews.
Recommended Fish Skin Treats
- Polkadog Bakery Cod Skins Dog Treats – 2-pack
- Polkadog Bakery Cod Skins / Haddock Skins Dog Treats – 2-pack
4 – A Tired Dog is a Well Behaved Dog
Exercise is key for Apollo and we play with him for at least an hour every day, including long walks, games of fetch, and swimming. We also have a dog walker who takes him for hour-long walks twice a week. The regular exercise calms his anxiety, curbs the boredom, and leaves us with a well-behaved, happy dog.
If you live in north Snohomish County, I highly recommend Wag-A-Muffins Pet Care Services.
5 – Canna-Pet CBD Advanced Formula Capsules
And, finally, our veterinarian recommended Canna-Pet. Apollo gets two to three capsules twice daily (added to his meals) and it works! I wasn't exactly confident that the CBD oil would work, but after doing more research, I found that I was giving it to my dogs incorrectly by adding it to their meals (or giving it too close to mealtime).
Today, if I use CBD oil, I give it to Apollo at least two hours before or after a meal. However, I prefer the Advanced Formula capsules for Apollo because they last for 12 hours.
The capsules don't make him drowsy, they simply take the edge off and when given daily, he doesn't tear things up when we're away.
Canna-Pet also has an Advanced MaxCBD, which is equally good for separation anxiety. I picked a few bottles of these up for my dogs when they have injuries, joint pain, or, in the case of Rodrigo, gut issues.
I purchased Canna-Pet initially through our veterinarian and I now order it online, stocking up when there is a sale. I also received several Canna-Pet items, including capsules, CBD oil, and dog treats from Canna-Pet.
How to Prevent Separation Anxiety
In my research, I learned that there isn't a clear understanding of why some dogs get separation anxiety and others do not. The condition is seen in many breeds, at many ages. I thought the reason we've never experienced separation anxiety in the past is that we've brought home two puppies at once and they kept each other company. Today, I understand that we've been lucky.
I think the best thing for dogs with separation anxiety is to be in a home where at least one of the adult humans can be at home with the dog. This isn't an option for many people and workable alternatives are:
- doggy daycare
- pet sitter
- prescription medication
We were taking Apollo to doggy daycare, but daily became too much and he was there for too long. We eventually stopped going because he showed us that he wanted to stay home with his new pack. He doesn't mind a few hours at daycare, but all day is too much.
Fulltime, doggy daycare can run about $600/month. Yikes!
At one time, we had someone coming by a few times a week to check up on the dogs, let them out for a potty break, and play with them in the yard. This is a great alternative if you work fulltime. It's a challenge to find someone who can manage all of our dogs (we have five total).
Pet sitters in our area charge at least $25/day, more for multi-dog homes.
An alternative for dogs with severe separation anxiety is prescription medication that soothes anxious dogs. I didn't think Apollo's condition was that severe and wanted to try Canna-Pet first and I'm glad that it worked. If there's a day when it seems like Canna-Pet isn't working, I simply add an additional capsule or give Apollo a couple of the dog treats or some of the CBD oil.
Dog Training for Dogs with Separation Anxiety
I considered hiring a dog trainer to help us with the separation anxiety, however, after some research, I didn't think we needed the help of a professional dog trainer. Instead, I watched a few videos and spoke to a few trainers I know and learned what I shared in this post. While dog training wasn't a path that we took, that doesn't mean that training won't work with your dog.