With a recent greater focus on mental health, a lot of people around the world have been diagnosed with different types of anxiety disorders — generalized, social, panic, and more. Unfortunately, we humans are not the only ones showing symptoms…
As we take a closer look at the animals in our lives, we may notice pets get anxious as well. Dogs in particular tend to get separation anxiety from their owners, especially if they’re rescues. When one dog showed serious symptoms, her owner had to use drastic measures to make her feel at ease.
Sara was a sweet-natured rescue dog. She loved her new human, enjoyed playing and going for walks, and was typically well-behaved… until her owner, Colleen, left the house. That’s when she started acting up.
In a haze of worry and fear, the poor dog would start barking endlessly, pant up a storm, pace around like a madwoman looking for her owner, and chew on the furniture. It wasn’t healthy.
See, due to Sara’s rough past, she suffered from a great amount of separation anxiety. It didn’t matter how long Colleen was gone, Sara would go into a frenzy. One time, she even rubbed her nose raw on the couch!
Of course, nobody wants to see their dog in any kind of pain (mental or physical), so Colleen tried everything she could to help her dog out. She got plenty of advice from other dog parents and started training and treatments.
She tried long walks, CBD oils, and crate training didn’t make a difference at all. Even prescription drugs for anxiety like Prozac didn’t put the pup’s mind at ease.
“It evolved into my having to be with her constantly, leaving her with someone else, or having to take her to doggie daycare whenever I left,” Colleen said. Luckily, she thought she finally found a solution to her pupper’s problems.
It was actually her cousin who came up with the idea. “Why don’t you try making some sort of dummy of yourself, so Sara thinks you’re always with her?” she suggested.
The plan sounded great… but then the dummy arrived. The creepy looking thing, Collen figured, wouldn’t fool her dog for a second.“My Sara would not fall for such simple deception!” she thought.
Still, she wanted to give the dummy a shot — anything to soothe her beloved dog’s anxiety. So she began making the dummy (nicknamed Dolly) look and smell more like herself by dressing it in her clothes.
Visuals were one thing. But dogs, Colleen knew, are all about smells. So, to make sure the dummy smelled as realistic as possible, she put Dolly in her bed. Those blankets and sheets were Smell City.
With Dolly looking and smelling the part, Colleen started placing it around the house. That way, Sara would constantly cross paths with the dummy, becoming more familiar with it.
The first place Dolly posted up? The bathroom. Colleen didn’t want it to be in a place Sara frequented because, well, if she figured out it was just a dummy, the plan kind of fell flat.
To her surprise, the plan worked! Just a glance at Dolly seemed to be enough to put Sara at ease, even for several hours. For the one of the first times ever, Colleen came home and found Sara sleeping on the couch, cool as a cucumber.
Then, one day, Colleen came home and couldn’t find Sara anywhere. She checked the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom… Finally, she opened the bathroom door and found Sara sleeping at Dolly’s feet. Something she’d never done before!
In a way, Colleen was right: Sara was too smart for the dummy. She didn’t think the uncanny thing was her mom. Still, those familiar smells coupled with a familiar, human-like object, gave the pooch comfort.
Even with Sara’s newfound comfort, Colleen didn’t plan on pressing her luck: long vacations were off the table. Still, she was elated with the results: “It has worked better than many other methods so far,” she said.
And, of course, Colleen didn’t use Dolly as an excuse to shirk mom duties. She and Sara still cuddle up on the couch and spend every minute possible together. They’re best buds, after all.
For dog owners who don’t want a dummy of themselves at home, a DIY therapeutic wrap is making its rounds on social media. It helps dogs chill out during a time of high stress or anxiety. To make it, all you need is a piece of fabric the length and width of a scarf.
Then, wrap it around your dog at their chest and their withers. If you are unfamiliar with the term “withers”, that just means at the base of the dog’s neck. It might seem like something intimidating to try, but the truth is that it’s a breeze!
The half-wrap makes them feel cozy and protected. This is the next best thing to having your arms around them. Imagine how secure your dog would feel being in your arms at all times. That’s exactly what the half-wrap does.
They aren’t just helpful. They can also be very stylish. Although using fabric scraps from home (ones that smell like you are a smart idea) or athletic bandages works just fine, you can also special order a half-wrap online.
Making a half-wrap shouldn’t take much time, but you could also just buy one for your best friend. Many people with nervous dogs (and cats, too) swear by the ThunderShirt when it comes to making sure their animals feel calm.
We normally think of small dogs as being the ones who get nervous, but every dog, no matter its size, can get a little anxious. When dogs get older, they can get confused. The half-wrap helps soothe them.
If you are nervous that trying a half-wrap on your own dog will be too much of a hassle, then you can always practice at home with a stuffed animal. They don’t squirm like your pup, but they’re much more patient with beginners.
Once you become a half-wrapping pro, getting your dog quickly swaddled and quickly comforted will be an absolute snap. It can even help calm down antisocial dogs during walks where they might encounter other dogs.
While most dogs might find being half-wrapped a little bit strange at first, they adjust it to very quickly! The key is to make it be a comforting and sweet activity you two share together, not something they associate with already feeling stress. Pinterest
Keeping that in mind, the surefire way to half-wrap your dog successfully is to anticipate when he might be in stressful situations and to make sure he’s all bundled up tight before that stress or anxiety gets a chance to strike!
If you’re worried about having an anxious dog, here are the 12 dog breeds that suffer the worst from separation anxiety. If you have one of them in your home, be sure to look out for the warning signs so you can help keep your pup comfortable while you’re away…
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1. Toy poodles: It should come as no surprise that these dogs, bred for the sole purpose of companionship, don’t exactly fare well when their owners are away for any given amount of time. It’s just in their nature to crave constant interaction!
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2. German shepherds: Known for performing a wide variety of tasks that range from herding sheep on farms and serving alongside the police, you’d think these dogs couldn’t be any more calm and collected…
Yet despite their seemingly stoic personalities, researchers have found that German shepherds are among the dog breeds who suffer the most from separation anxiety. Perhaps, that explains why they work so well as partners on the police force.
3. Havaneses: These small Cuban dogs were pretty much bred to be the perfect family companions. When they are left to their own devices, unfortunately, their separation anxiety really kicks it into high gear.
4. Labrador retrievers: Everyone loves a Labrador. As one of the most family-friendly dogs on the planet, you’d expect these little guys to be incredibly happy throughout the day, no matter what. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case…
As family dogs, it only makes sense that Labs enjoy the time they spend around people. So when they’re left alone—even for short periods of time—their separation anxiety can be intense.
5. Cocker spaniels: As gun dogs, cocker spaniels are accustomed to spending long hours in the great outdoors with their owners. And while they are fantastic companions, they’ve developed some temperament issues over the years.
6. Border collies: Often noted by people as little balls of energy, these intelligent sport dogs are always looking for new ways to keep themselves busy. When they’re not out running around with their owners, they need ways to bide their time!
Unfortunately for border collies, their constant need for exercise, mental stimulation, and entertainment throughout the day often leads to severe cases of separation anxiety when their owners are away.
7. Bichon Frises: It only makes sense that these lapdogs wouldn’t exactly enjoy being away from their owners. The sudden change in the amount of attention they receive while their humans aren’t at home is enough to give them severe anxiety.
8. Australian shepherds: These active dogs are known for their relentless work ethic that includes herding livestock on the busiest farms. But that’s okay for them, because they love to get in the dirt and lend a helping paw! That said, things aren’t always peachy…
Their need for stimulation certainly helps explain why the Australian shepherd doesn’t fare too well when it comes to fighting boredom. In fact, when there’s nothing left to do, it often leads to these pups becoming quite anxious.
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9. Cavalier King Charles spaniel: As is the case with the majority of companion dogs, these spaniels aren’t exactly fond of being left alone. So when they’re looking for ways to fill their time, they often struggle with anxiety.
10. Vizslas: Bred as loyal hunting dogs, Vizslas have often been referred to as a “Velcro dog,” meaning they love to stick by their humans’ sides at all times. They go to great lengths to please their owners, too.
These active Hungarian pups often aim to please their owners in the great outdoors. When they’re left alone for longer periods of time, the side effects of separation anxiety kick in rather quickly, and they struggle to fill the dull moments in a day.
11. Italian greyhounds: While you might recognize greyhounds as an active and agile breed, the Italian ones are just as happy to lounge around with their companions as they are to be running through a field. When they’re alone, they become incredibly anxious.
12. German shorthaired pointers: As one of the most popular hunting dog breeds, these pups are used to working long hours alongside their owners. So it only makes sense that when their owners are away, they have a hard time adapting!