When your dog has separation anxiety, it may seem impossible to imagine taking a trip without your pet. However, at some point, you may need to travel somewhere that does not allow you to bring your pet. Take a look at these tips on boarding a dog with separation anxiety comfortably and easing separation anxiety issues.
Helping a Dog Deal with Separation Anxiety
Dogs who experience separation anxiety are normally calm when with their human parents but get extremely agitated whenever their owners are away. This anxiety can manifest in one or more of the following manners:
- Excessive barking and/or howling
- Destructive behavior around the house – Chewing and tearing up furniture or the owner’s belongings.
- Urinating and defecating in the house despite being potty-trained.
- Illness – Vomiting and shaking
- Self-harm – Biting, scratching or throwing self against a crate trying to get out.
The anxiety can be mild or severe, and some dogs with extreme cases of separation anxiety may need medication in order to deal with time alone.
If your dog has separation anxiety, the first thing you should do is consult with his veterinarian for ideas. It can also be beneficial to meet with a professional dog trainer for guidance.
How to Help Dogs Cope with Separation Anxiety
Before you board your pet, you should work on ways to lessen the dog’s anxiety. Some strategies that can help dogs cope with separation anxiety include:
- Create a routine every time you leave the dog alone. Command the dog to sit and stay. Tell him you will be back. Over time, the dog will realize that you will come back every time you give the command and say the phrase, making him less anxious.
- Confine the dog to one room, or a pen or crate. Staying in one room rather than roaming the empty house can help the dog feel more secure. Crates work well because it can provide a den-like comfort. However, only use a crate with a dog that is accustomed to a crate because some dogs will injure themselves jumping hard against a crate to try to escape during anxiety episodes.
- Leave an item with your scent on it to comfort the dog, such as a shirt. There are also pet-friendly devices in the forms of toys that allow you to record a special message for your dog that will replay during the absence to help the dog feel closer to you.
- Provide safe toys to keep the dog occupied.
- Ask your veterinarian to recommend an over-the-counter calming medicine.
- Teach the basic commands of dog training. Teaching basic dog training commands helps establish you as the dog’s master and pack leader. When he accepts you as the pack leader, he will feel less anxious in general and feel more secure, which can lead to fewer separation anxiety issues.
- Socialize the dog with other dogs and people whenever possible. A well-socialized dog is generally happier and better behaved.
Find a Kennel Experienced in Separation Anxiety
When it is necessary to board a dog with separation anxiety, you should look for a kenneling facility that has experience in handling separation anxiety issues. Not all kennels are equal and you may need to research a number of them before you find one that you feel can gently handle your dog’s special issues. Ask your veterinarian for kennel recommendations and talk to friends who are happy with their pet’s kennel. Start the kennel search at least two months in advance because it is best to reserve a spot about four weeks ahead of time.
Look for kennels that have the following characteristics for the best results:
- Tour the facility unannounced to get the best impression. The facility should be clean and the dogs well cared for. The animals should have enough room to play and exercise. It shouldn’t be overpacked with animals.
- Ask about the dog’s daily schedule. How often will he be fed? Will they walk them at least twice a day? Can he play with other dogs?
- There is adequate staff to tend to each dog. The staff is friendly, professional and efficient. Ask for references, specifically clients with dogs that have separation anxiety.
- A reputable kennel should be happy to provide references. Ask the clients how the kennel dealt with their pet’s issues. Ask the kennel management how they handle dogs with separation anxiety. These answers may help you decide if they are experienced and the right professionals to care for your pet.
- Take your dog to the kennel for a short trial stay before the trip to see how it goes. Your dog’s reaction can help you decide if the facility can meet his needs for a long-term visit.
Alternatives to Kennels
If you are not happy with any of the kennel options in your area or feel your dog can’t handle a kennel, consider the following alternatives:
- Nontraditional boarding facilities which provide a more home-like atmosphere for dogs than regular kennels. These tend to be smaller than traditional kennels and may work better for a dog with anxiety issues.
- A professional dog sitter can either take the dog into their home temporarily or come to your house daily to tend the pet.
- Ask a friend or relative familiar with the dog to come to your house daily to care for your pet.
Finding the best boarding situation can help your dog deal with his anxiety issues in a healthy manner and give you peace of mind on vacation.