When your dog has separation anxiety, the thought of boarding him can lead to a nerve-racking vacation.
For pet parents whose dogs suffer from separation anxiety, going on a vacation can be anything but relaxing. If dogs have to be left behind for a week or two, this means spending time in a kennel, away from their loving family. And it can send an anxious dog into a world of panic.
Dog separation is a common condition in canines. It can happen to any breed of dog at any stage of his life, and it has the potential to cause serious distress and injury to your pooch. We don't have concrete evidence that tell us exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, there is a common thread that runs through typical situations that can trigger this problem. A few of the common factors include:
Anxious by nature (born with it)
Taken away from their mothers too soon
Caused by a dramatic life event, such as being left at a shelter
A change in routine
Boredom and lack of exercise
If you think your dog has separation anxiety, look for the following symptoms or behaviors:
Excessive salivation, barking, and whining
Destruction of items in the home
Scratching at walls, doors and floors
Attempting to escape from a crate or room
But don't despair—if your dog suffers from separation anxiety, there are ways you can go on your vacation without worrying that your pooch is miserable.
Explore Other Options
Commercial boarding kennels aren't the only option available for vacationing dog owners. If your dog would be more comfortable at home, a pet sitter may be the way to go. Or how about in-home boarding facility, where a small number of dogs stay inside their home? Ask a friend or family member if they'd look after your pup, either in your home or their own. These kinds of options can make your time away a lot less distressing for a dog with separation anxiety.
Work on Coping Mechanisms
Before you go, spend time working on your dog’s separation issues. Start by leaving him alone for short amounts of time and gradually build this time up. Talk to a veterinarian or a dog behaviorist for additional tips and advice.
When you're packing for your anxious dog, be sure he has reminders of his home and family—this should make him feel somewhat less stressed if he has familiar sights and smells with him. Send him with as many of his own belongings as possible, such as his bed, his favorite toys, and his food and water bowls. Also send an old shirt or pillowcase that smells like you.
Talk about Your Concerns
Before you make a final decision about where your dog is going to stay while you're away, the person or people that are looking after him should know about his separation anxiety. When the caregivers are knowledgeable and caring, they'll have their own methods for dealing with dogs with separation anxiety.
Exercise and Socialization
Dogs are less homesick when they've got friends to hang out with and are getting fresh air. Make sure that whatever option or facility you choose will give your dog enough exercise. Ideally, he should either be getting a couple of walks each day or several hours in a large exercise pen. Socialization with other dogs can help as well. If your dog is friendly, he might benefit from making friends and playing with some of the other dogs boarded there.
Stuff to Do
If your dog is entertained, he’ll be less likely to get stressed and anxious. Set him up with some toys he can play with on his own, such as puzzle toys or treat dispensing balls. He may also like to have some things to chew on, whether they’re chewy treats or heavy duty chew toys. Chewing will keep him busy and offer comfort.
Amy Tokic is the Editor of Petguide.com, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.