One of the issues that can plague Golden Retrievers is separation anxiety. Goldens love to be with their family and if separated from them for too long or too frequently, separation anxiety can occur. Dogs with separation anxiety will often bark, howl, chew destructively, salivate on everything, and attempt to escape. If the dog is confined in a create they may even paw and chew at the create until their mouth and paws are bleeding.
Do you have time for a dog?
Luckily, there are many ways to help your dog with this. The first of which is to make sure you have enough time to dedicate to your dog before you get one. Realistically, how much time do you have? Do you work for 8 hours a day and have a long commute? Will you let your dog sleep in the same room as you? If not then you might only be around your dog for 4-6 hours a day. If that is the case then can you afford to have a dog walker come over and walk your dog or take your dog to doggie daycare? Perhaps the best scenario is to have a job where your dog can come to work with you. Think carefully about the time you have before you get a Golden Retriever or any dog for that matter.
The next, step is training. If you decide that you have the time to dedicate to a dog than training can be a good defense. Training and socialization are super important for all dogs. Training your dog that it is okay to be alone is very helpful.
It is best to start this training as soon as possible after bringing a new dog home. Place them in a safe place, create or room. Provide them with a stuffed Kong or another treat-filled toy. Walk away for a few minutes. Be sure to reappear when the dog is not whining or barking for you. If you appear when they start to pitch a fit you will reinforce the fit, and could actually cause separation anxiety. Slowly extend the period of time you are out of view. Eventually, move further from sight and even open and close doors to the outside and/or start your car. Return immediately for the first few times.
It can be helpful to leave the TV or radio on to provide noise and help your dog be able to believe that you are home. Another thing that can help is to leave an article of clothing that smells like you in the area with your dog. This will provide soothing comfort for your pal. A pajama shirt that you wear all night is a good option.
Changing what you typically do before you leave can make a big difference too. Never make a big deal about when you leave, snuggling or feeling bad over your dog before you go. This will give him a perfect cue to know that you are leaving and he should stress. It is also a good idea to not have a huge party when you get home. This will just reinforce that life is so much better with you and how depend he is on you.
Think about your daily routine. Perhaps, you get up, take your dog outside, have some coffee, get dressed for the day, walk your dog, and immediately leave for work. Your dog may start to associate returning from the morning walk with you leaving. The anxiety will then start to build as soon as you return from the walk.
Simply changing to walking your dog first thing before anything else may be enough to rock the routine. If you end up staying for a half hour or so after the walk instead of leaving immediately he will not associate coming home from the walk with you leaving. Of course, you have to keep the routine changing every so often. Otherwise, he may notice a new cue like you finishing your coffee or something else that will trigger his anxiety.
What if my dog already has separation anxiety?
Well, first, you can apply the training and routine change information above. There is also medication that you can get from your vet but I wouldn't recommend it. These medications come with a whole host of side-effects including:
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Lethargy and/or drowsiness
- Skin conditions
- Affected learning and memory
- Increased urination
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting
- Damage to the liver
- Increased aggression and anxiety
Do you see that last one? Anti-anxiety medications can lead to more anxiety! You don't want that. Thankfully there are better, more natural solutions. These should be used in tandem with the training and routine changes discussed above.
CBD oil is getting a lot of interest lately and for good reason. CBD oil can help with so many health issues, including anxiety. Whether you are giving your dog CBD for separation anxiety, to calm him for a car ride, or because a thunderstorm is coming it can help a lot. CBD takes between 30-60 minutes to kick in. Be sure to do your research and choose an organic, full-spectrum CBD oil with no THC. Dogs are much more sensitive to THC than humans and very small doses can be toxic.
St. Jon's Wort can be a very effective anti-depressant and is great for separation anxiety. Be sure to buy organic. It can be made into a tea or used in a tincture or capsule form.
Homeopathy offers a few options to help with separation anxiety as well. Pulsatilla nigicans in 6C or 30C is good for separation anxiety. Also, Gelsemium in 6C or 30C, this is particularly helpful if the dog gets so stressed that he loses control of his bowels or bladder.
Flower essences can prove very helpful in cases of separation anxiety. There is a product called Rescue Remedy that is made especially for pets. It is a combination of may essences and can be very effective in helping your precious pal. To use this product simply put 4 drops into your dog's food, water bowl, or on a treat.
Here are a few other flower essences that you may want to give a try: Chicory, Heather, Red Chestnut, and Honeysuckle. To give one of these simply give your dog 4 drops, 4 times a day for 4-5 days. You can drop the essences into your dog's water or directly in his mouth.
Essential oils are not the same as flower essences. Never let your dog lick or otherwise ingest essential oils and never apply undiluted essential oils to your dog's fur or skin. However, using aromatherapy with essential oils can be helpful in cases of separation anxiety. Try Neroli, Violet Leaf, Vetiver, Lavender, Rose hydrosol. Combine 5 drops stock blend oil of each into 2oz of the Rose hydrosol and place it in a diffuser. Be sure your dog can leave the room if he chooses. They have very sensitive noses.
You can also make a calming mist for your dog by combining
½ oz neroli (Citrus aurantium) hydrosol
½ oz blue chamomile (Matricaria recutita) hydrosol
5 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
Mix these together in a spray bottle, shake before using, and mist your dog. This is safe to do because the oils are diluted. You can keep this mixture in the refrigerator for up to 6 months
Well, there you have it. A few helpful and natural ways to prevent or help a dog with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can seem flattering at first, "my dog misses me so much that he freaks out when I leave, how sweet." Missing you is fine, but a full-blown panic attack when you leave is not. If you have ever experienced or seen someone have a panic attack it is not cute, sweet, or fun. Stress can lead to all sorts of health problems so reducing stress is essential to longevity.
Please be aware of your pet and his stress and seek natural ways to help him as soon as possible. Training, routine change-ups, not making a big deal about coming or going, and several natural herbs, flower essences, and essential oils can help. There is hope for your precious pup.