Separation anxiety is among the toughest canine behaviors to crack. You have the best dog. He’s calm, he’s well-behaved, he’s affectionate. Then, you leave, and he turns into a completely different animal!
The anxiety may start even before you go. It’s never easy leaving your dog. He might whine, pace, or follow you around while you get ready. Then you leave, and is there anything worse than having to shut the door and see his sad little face watching you from the window?
There is a big difference, however, between a dog that just misses his owner and a dog with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can cause stress for the entire household.
Here are a few signs of separation anxiety in dogs:
- Barking incessantly while you’re away.
- Scratching at the doors and windows.
- Damaging belongings and/or raiding the trashcan.
- Eliminating inside the house.
If these are behaviors that your dog would never dream of doing when you are present, chances are he’s suffering while you’re gone. But there are a few ways to help your dog deal with his separation anxiety.
If possible, prevent!
This affliction is very common in dogs because they love you so much—and you love them! When a person first gets a dog (especially as a puppy) they just want to pet them, play with them, and give them constant attention.
It’s important to prepare your dog for when you have to leave the house without him. Veterinary Centers of America suggests scheduling alone time for your dog, either in his crate or in his bed so he can get used to the idea. This will teach your dog that he is safe, even when he is alone, and that you will come back for him.
The American Kennel Club notes that it is important you don’t punish your dog if you return home and find it a wreck during the early stages of your relationship. This will only serve to make your dog more anxious.
If your dog already has separation anxiety, try these tips!
It is often possible to cure separation anxiety through counterconditioning and crate training.
FETCH by WebMD suggests giving your dog a treat or a puzzle toy when you leave. This is an excellent idea not only because it makes your leaving a positive experience, but also because it helps with one of the other major players in separation anxiety: boredom.
Sometimes your dog just has too much energy and doesn’t know what to do if you aren’t there to entertain him. Exercising your dog before you leave can help, as well as making sure he has toys to play with in your absence (other than the couch cushions).
Don’t leave your dog alone for an unreasonable amount of time. Make sure he has water, food, and access to use the bathroom. Hunger, thirst, and a strained bladder can cause plenty of stress!
If none of the above suggestions work, it’s time to call for backup. Sally Said So! is an in-home dog training company in North Carolina, and we can tailor a training plan to help cure your dog’s anxiety for good.
Contact us today!