“Dogs and separation anxiety” is a common topic among dog parents. My fur baby has been suffering from separation anxiety for many years, however she has gotten better thanks to some training tips that I have followed
Dogs are very social animals and have been our companions for thousands of years. They love spending most of their time with us and some of them really suffer when left alone.
In this article, I would like to outline some key points about separation anxiety and advise on things you can do to help your dog improve.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a behavioural problem that affects many dogs and it is caused by the fear of separating from the people they’ve become attached to.
Affected dogs can become extremely anxious when it is time for the owner to leave the house, even for short periods of time. Their discomfort is shown in certain types of behaviours that can even end up being destructive.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Here is a list of the typical symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs:
- Excessive salivation
- Barking and howling
- Chewing and destroying
- Scratching at walls, doors and floors
- Attempting to escape
- Urinating and defecating
It is worth noting that separation anxiety can be either true or simulated.
The latter is displayed by dogs who have learned that they will get attention when exhibiting a certain behaviour. Even being told off becomes some sort of reward for their behaviour.
Simulated separation anxiety is fairly easy to overcome with some training, a good amount of exercise and a strong leadership.
True separation anxiety on the other hand, imposes a greater challenge. You will have to thoroughly examine your dog’s behaviour and come up with a rigid action plan.
Things you Can Do
There are so many things you can do to make your pup feel better, however this will take time. It really depends on the age of your dog and how long they have had separation anxiety for.
Here are some steps to follow in order for you to help a dog suffering from separation anxiety:
Do Not Make a Big Fuss About Leaving the House
We hate seeing those big eyes staring at us when we leave, so sometimes is very tempting to try comforting our pup. However, leaving and returning into the house should be part of the routine and should not become a big deal for your dog.
Help Them Get Used to Your Absence
Spend at least 5 minutes a day teaching them that you will always come back! Leave the house for 5 minutes without greeting your pup nor making eye contact, go for a walk around the block and come back without giving any attention to your dog.
Some dogs really benefit from crate training. If you teach them to view the crate as a safe place, you can ask them to go into their crate right before you leave, so that they can feel cozy and protected while you are out.
Please note that when doing crate training, you should do it naturally. Do it gradually. Let your dog go into the crate and leave the gate open at first, then try to close the gate when they are ready. Don’t make the dog go into their crate only in certain specific situations. You need to mix things up, so that the dog does not think you are trying to punish them for something 🙂
Change your Routine
Dogs recognise and remember your habits. If you usually wear your coat first, put your shoes on and then grab the keys before leaving through the front door, try to change your routine the next day by grabbing the keys first, putting your shoes on, wearing your coat and leaving via the back door.
How Indoor Pet Cameras Can Help
Having a pet monitoring system can really help you understand what your dog’s behaviour is like while you are away.
Not knowing what symptoms they are presenting, may pose a challenge when having to draw an action plan to improve your dog’s behaviour.
It can also be very helpful to have recorded videos of your dog’s behaviour, so that these can be shown to a dog behaviourist in the event of you deciding to seek for help.
Dog Behaviour Specialist – When to Seek for Help
Dog behaviourists can really help find the root cause of the problem by visiting your home and observing your dog in their own environment.
They will also observe your behaviour towards the dog and advise on things you should to help your dog.
It is important to seek for help when the dog has established a behavioural problem that you have not been able to rectify on your own. The longer you avoid seeking for help, the worse your dog anxiety could get.
If you have just adopted a dog whose background is unknown, it is best to seek out for help immediately. An expert can advise on an action plan to take in order to prevent the dog’s behaviour from getting worse.
I would advise you look for local behaviourists who have an established clientele, so that you can ask for references and check if they have ever helped other dogs who were showing exactly the same behaviour as yours.
You could also ask your local community. Facebook is a great tool when it comes to reaching out to local people by using specific groups.
You might find a group dedicated to the town where you live and I am confident the community will be more than happy to give you recommendations 🙂