Does your dog bark incessantly the minute you leave your apartment or house? You definitely aren’t alone. Having your BFF bark non-stop and become overwhelmed with anxiety when you leave is a very common problem for dog lovers. Their social separation anxiety may even go beyond barking. The dog may urinate, defecate, howl, chew at furniture and other items, and even try to escape. This can be especially problematic if you live in an apartment or have close neighbors who can hear your dog – aside from the fact that knowing your dog is upset makes you want to turn around immediately and cuddle with them.

According to the ASPCA, there is no conclusive evidence for why dogs develop separation anxiety. But usually, dogs adopted from a shelter commonly have this behavior problem because they experienced the loss of an important person in their life.

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Believe it or not, sometimes the separation anxiety is inadvertently caused by us. When we make a big fuss when we leave and come home, we are rewarding the dog’s anxiety about our absence, which just makes the dog even more stressed every time we leave.

When I come home to my two dogs, I try my hardest to remain calm and fight the urge to shower them with love. This sounds harsh, but I do this simply to let my dogs know that me coming and going is normal and nothing to worry about.

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Dogs can also show signs of separation anxiety for other reasons, for instance, a change in their routines, a change in their homes such as a new home or a change in a family member. So what can you do for a dog who won’t stop barking when you leave your apartment or home? Thankfully, there are many options to help lessen your dog’s anxiety, creating a more peaceful environment for the both of you.

Physical and Mental Stimulation 

If a dog is well exercised and mentally exhausted, when you leave the apartment or the house, they more than likely won’t have any energy to become anxious. To help them relax when you are gone, provide 30 minutes of exercise daily. Fetch and tug of war are always great activities that will also allow for bonding with your canine. For mental stimulation, the ASPCA recommends providing food puzzles. Setting up puppy play dates and outings to the local dog park are also great ways to enrich your dog’s life.

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Give Them a Special Treat When You Leave

One way to help your dog if they suffer from separation anxiety is to help them develop a positive association when you leave. Offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food (for instance, a KONG stuffed with peanut butter) that will take them 20 or 30 minutes to finish. The key here is to remove the special toy when you come back home so that way your dog only has access to them when he is by himself. This will help create the dog associate you leaving the house with someone positive, rather than a terrifying experience.

White Noise 

When you leave, put on a TV or a radio for white noise. Having white noise will mask outside noises and it also gives the appearance of your presence. There are even specific music albums made of white noise for your pet! You could also try keeping your curtains or shades shut when you are away. This way the dog has no visual stimuli and muffles outside noises similar to how white noise does.

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Medication Might be Useful for More Serious Cases 

Of course, you would need to discuss medication with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist to see if that is the right option for you and your dog. But if the separation anxiety is so severe, medication could help your dog deal with the separation. Medication could also be used as a way to assist the dog so that the underlying behavior can be changed and the dog can be rehabilitated.

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ASPCA also offers detailed steps on exercises you can do with your dog, such as leaving and coming back that could help desensitize your dog and allow them to grow accustomed to your absence. It’s also important to never scold or punish your dog for anxious behaviors! Punishment could only make the dog even more upset and the problem could get worse. For tips on how to help ease the anxiety of a dog who is scared of thunderstorms, click here.

Do you have any tips for how you’ve handled your dog barking when you leave your home? Share in the comments below for other dog lovers! It’s important we keep our best friends happy and healthy.

Lead image source: waferboard/Flickr

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