“My dog has separation anxiety.”
…a realization many owners dread.
And, understandably so.
If your dog has separation anxiety, the condition could come with a host of other behavioral problems, in addition to the obvious distress to your dog:
- Constant barking, whining, or even howling, for, at times, hours on end.
- Chewing and tearing out objects while you’re away.
- Coming home to puddles and landmines on your carpet. Overly-exuberant welcomes, flashes of aggression, and other signs of insecurity.
Your Dog Anxiety Can Get Really Bad As A Pattern
Most dogs normally experience separation anxiety, to some degree or other, within their first year.
However, there are great ways to deal with it recommended by behavioral experts, that are effective, and healthy for both you and your dog.
A separation anxiety cure normally involves:
- separation anxiety training
- using approved products among aids like separation anxiety vests, collars, and toys.
- approved separation anxiety calming soft chew medication
- using alternatives like dog sitters and walkers while you’re away
What works for you and your dog depends on your dog’s personality, of course, but one, or a combination of the above usually does the trick.
Training, however, is the most effective method as a long-term solution for dog separation anxiety.
Here are five simple training tips to help ease separation anxiety:
1. Take Your Dog for a Walk or a Run, So He Rests While You’re Away
If your dog tends to be destructive or hyper while you’re gone, taking care of that excess energy, if not the anxiety, would at least see that the house hasn’t been turned upside down in your absence.
Go for a really brisk walk or a run, or better yet, tire him out with an enthusiastic game of fetch or chase right before you need to leave.
A good exercise would leave him exhausted enough for sleeping through at least a part of your time away.
Also, the exercise would help your dog’s mental state the same way a good workout is so satisfactory.
Try to intensify the workout for your dog with different games, or having him wear a backpack with some weight.
Also, remember to feed him before you leave. A good meal and drink would ease him into his calm, relaxed state as he goes into rest.
2. Reduce Contact and Interaction to Help him See it’s No Big Deal.
Here’s another really simple, but important tip:
Do NOT make a large show of leaving, or coming back home!
No elaborate goodbyes or welcomes with petting and consoling. No eye contact, even – or at least, keep it on the down-low and to a minimum.
Such overly concerned reactions to your dog’s behavior only feed his insecurity and neediness, and won’t do the situation any good.
Welcomes can be harder to deal with since you yourself are obviously happy to see your dog. Nevertheless, try your level best to minimize contact as you enter, and to wait a bit till he’s calm before you pet and play with him.
Keeping things normal and minimal eventually helps your dog understand that you’re leaving the house isn’t really a big deal.
3. Your Body Language is Crucial in Dealing with Separation Anxiety
This is something many owners fail to see.
Your dog is very aware and affected by the kind of energy you yourself display.
These can be little things – try to notice your dog’s reaction or behavior when you’re visibly upset, angry, worried, or conversely, happy.
You can see that his behavior or state of mind often mirrors yours, or is something that is clearly in reaction to yours. Particularly when your energy and mental state are quite apparent.
Being mindful of these things, and how they reflect in your body language as you’re leaving or entering the home, can be really effective for your dog’s separation anxiety.
So mask any feelings of guilt, worry, or other negative emotions and project a calm and relaxed appearance to your dog, to help him see that nothing’s wrong.
4. Practice Leaving and Coming Back For Increasing Amounts of Time to Get Him Used to it.
To help your dog get used to it, practice leaving and coming back with him every day, for increasing periods of time.
Again, depending on the dog, you might have to work out variations. For dogs suffering from severe separation anxiety, owners may start with practicing leaving the room in which the dog is.
The same thing goes for crate training. If your dog reacts badly to being crated, start with leaving him in for small periods, say 5 minutes, and take it up from there as and when he gets used to each level.
Make sure you’re steadily increasing the time apart from minutes until you’re able to leave him alone without acting out for the hours you’re normally away.
5. Focus on Commands that Make him Sit Calmly and be Disciplined.
Teaching your dog discipline through commands such as “Sit” or “Stay”, that help him stay calm and composed go a long way towards weeding out separation anxiety.
For instance, many dogs suffering from separation anxiety tend to freak out as soon as the owners pick up their keys, or start pulling on their socks.
Insisting that your dog sit calmly while you put on your shoes, or pick up your keys and leave would help him keep his composure for longer periods of time while you’re gone, or delay the impending tornado at the very least.
Many such cases, especially the destructive ones, also occur due to a general lack of discipline or obedience training in the dog.
So, stop putting up with it, whether it be little things like insistent attention-seeking pawing, or nibbling when you’re busy, reacting wildly to the doorbell or visitors, or all-out prancing around the living room when you’ve clearly expressed your displeasure.
A dog with fewer inhibitions and discipline would act out much worse than one who understands what his owner wants.
With these simple effective training tips, you should be able to really improve your dog’s reaction to separation, and reduce his anxiety while you’re away.
There are, of course, other methods and treatments to complement the training, whether it be using sitters and walkers while you’re out for most of the day, using dog separation anxiety relief treats, products like anxiety vests, or even music that helps with dog separation anxiety!
We’ll get into those in another post, seeing as there’s so much to get into.
Training, however, is undoubtedly the most effective, and healthy approach to deal with the condition, if you’re looking for a permanent solution.
Other methods certainly help, but usually act as distractions, temporary solutions, or relief, and don’t really get to the root of the problem.
So do make sure you engage in training activities, and regularly, and results are bound to come! Do let us know your thoughts and of your experiences in the comments section below!