Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety? It can be so upsetting to see or hear and most upsetting to know your dog is suffering from it and you don’t know what to do?
Separation anxiety is a common complaint by dog owners, where their beloved pet has been disruptive or destructive when left alone. Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset due to the separation from the people they are attached to.
Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety become agitated or stressed when they see their owners preparing to leave. Others become anxious or depressed prior to their owners departure or when their owners are not present.
When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to relax or at least cope with being left alone. This can be accomplished by setting things up so that your dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.
What NOT to Do
NEVER scold or punish your dog. Anxious behaviours are not the result of disobedience, naughtiness or spite. They are distress responses! Your dog displays anxious behaviours when left alone because they are upset and trying to cope with a great deal of stress. If you punish them, they may become even more upset and the problem could get much worse.
Here is what you can do:
- If possible, take your dog to work with you.
- Arrange for a family member, friend or dog sitter to come to your home and stay with your dog when you’re not there. (Most dogs suffering from separation anxiety are fine as long as someone is with them. That someone doesn’t necessarily need to be you.)
- Take your dog to a sitter’s house or to a doggy daycare.
- Leave the television or radio on and leave a jumper or t-short that you have just worn with your dog so they can smell your scent.
- Implement some graduate leaving exercises, so start with leaving the house just for a few minutes then go back into the house, repeat it again but staying away a little bit longer and keep repeating over the days and weeks so your dog get to realise that when you are leaving it wont be long before you are back.
- In addition to these graduated absences exercises, all greetings (hellos and goodbyes) should be conducted in a very calm manner. When saying goodbye, just give your dog a pat on the head, say goodbye and leave. Similarly, when you arrive home, say hello to your dog and then don’t pay any more attention to him until he’s calm and relaxed. The amount of time it takes for your dog to relax once you’ve returned home will depend on his level of anxiety and individual temperament. To decrease your dog’s excitement level when you come home, it might help to distract him by asking him to perform some simple behaviors that he’s already learned, such as sit, down or give paw.
- When you know you have to go out for a few hours, take your dog for a long walk to tire them out. There is a saying a tired dog is a happy relaxed dog. If they have had plenty of exercise before you leave there is more chance of them relaxing when you are out.
- Provide Plenty of little jobs or activities for your dog to do while you are out. By providing lots of physical and mental stimulation is a vital part of treating many behavior problems, especially those involving anxiety. Exercising your dog’s mind and body can greatly enrich his life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal dog behaviours. This can be done by using the treat toys and balls, your dog will spend time trying to get his favourite treats out of these type of toys and there are are great choices available to buy now (check them out Amazon). There are loads of different brain stimulating toys. You could also hide treats around the house so they have to sniff and find them which alot of dogs love to do.
- To boost your dogs confidence take your dog on trips with you, walk in different places and meet other people and other dogs (when its non-threatening).
There are many ways to help your dog through separation anxiety, many of the above tips can help but it really depends on your dog and the extent of yours dogs anxiety.
You can also take your dog to a dog behaviorist who have many different techniques to help your dog overcome separation anxiety.