We’ve had Bennett for 3 years now.
When we rescued him, we got almost zero information about his previous owners. We have no idea what went on the first 18 months of his life.
Which means we have no idea what causes his almost crippling separation anxiety.
But it’s there, and it’s bad.
When we adopted him, they warned us he was very hyper, so we were prepared for that, but it felt like so much more.
He was completely out of control when people came over. Not just jumping on them, but whining and crying so loudly and not letting up. Whenever we took a car ride he cried and whined the whole time, and the when we reached our destination (or just stopped at a stoplight), he would freak out completely and jump into the driver’s lap.
At 65lbs, not only was this incredibly dangerous, as it blocked our vision, but also kept me from being able to drive him anywhere during my pregnancies.
If he is separated from us in any capacity, whether it be a door, a gate, or a window, he cannot contain himself. He will cry and jump and scratch to be let in for hours. Everyone always says “eventually, he’ll give up!” but he never gives up. Ever. I don’t know if it’s because he was abandoned by his first owners, or if he’s worried we’re going to come back with more kids, but being away from us seems to cause him intense emotional distress.
This goes for Sawyer too. Although adjusting to kids in the house has been just that, an adjustment, he has an incredible bond with our oldest son, Sawyer. So much so, that when Sawyer goes to bed, he’ll find any way to open the door and get in his room,
often, to our dismay, waking him up.
It didn’t take us long to figure out this wasn’t hyperactivity, he was acting out due to anxiety.
I’m sure bringing 2 kids into his life when he used to be our sole focus didn’t help much. But after a few years of dealing with his crippling separation anxiety, we knew we had to try something to combat it. And we’ve actually had some success! If you have anxiety, you know it never completely goes away, but we’ve given Bennett the tools he needs to feel a little better. Here are some suggestions for helping your dog deal with separation anxiety
Talk to Your Vet
You would think this would go without saying, but years passed before we finally sought help for Bennett’s separation anxiety. The vet was able to see immediately what we were talking about just by spending 5 minutes with him. She gave us some tips and tricks and really great advice. We’ve been working with him since then on tricks to better handle being separated from us, and are seeing an improvement.
Invest in a Weighted Vest
We got Bennett a thunder shirt in an attempt to exhaust every option possible. A dog trainer recommended it to us. and we were skeptical to say the least. How could a piece of clothing affect his mental state? But it does. After further research, I actually found that when a human experiences an anxiety attack, you’re supposed to put your arms around them and apply pressure. Kind of like a very firm hug, and this helps calm them down. By wearing a weighted vest, or a “thunder shirt”, your dog is getting this beneficial pressure applied all day long, which helps keep him calm, even when he’s away from us. We see the thunder shirt at it’s best when people come over. There’s no more intense crying and hardly any jumping. He just wags his tail and gives kisses. He wears it all the time now!
A Healthy Diet
I know what you’re thinking, “duh!” but hear me out. An unhealthy gut is directly linked with depression and anxiety. I was doing some research about gut health to help deal with my own anxiety and what I found was so interesting! The gut is directly linked to the brain via the vagus nerve, and the enteric nervous system (source). Research has shown that the bacteria in your gut directly influences your brain chemistry and behavior. So, if your gut is unhappy, you might be unhappy. If healthy eating can help humans feel better, then maybe it can help dogs too
The best way to ensure a healthy gut is through a healthy diet. Dog food often contains yucky ingredients, and finding a good one can do wonders for your dog’s health, both physically and mentally. We recently tried Hill’s Science Diet for Bennett, and so far, he loves it!
A good rule of thumb for a healthy dog food, is the first ingredient should be meat. The first ingredient of Hill’s Science Diet Adult Large Breed dog food is chicken! The following ingredients include things like whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, apples, broccoli, pork fat, and other wholesome ingredients. Feeding Bennett a great food seems to vastly improve his mood, and he gobbles his Hill’s Science Diet down. We’ll definitely order again!
There are even more perks to this dog food. By ordering on Amazon and using Subscribe and Save, Bennett’s food can be automatically delivered to our door once per month. I can’t tell you how many times I’d do my weekly grocery shopping and forget to pick up dog food. Not only that, but dog food bags are so heavy and loading it into the car with two kids in tow was never ideal. Delivery is much more convenient.
Have a cat? Shop Hill’s Science Diet cat food HERE.
Does your dog have separation anxiety? How are you dealing with it? Comment below!
And be sure to check out Hill’s Science Diet: