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Last updated on: February 6th, 2020
Separation anxiety in dogs is a foreign concept for many dog owners. Few people know about or can recognize symptoms of this condition in their dogs. So in many cases, dog owners and their pets suffer through it without solutions. Unfortunately, it can strain the relationship and keep pet and owner from enjoying their time together. However, now that more people are learning about the situation, there is more information available. As a result, more dog owners are learning how to recognize and treat separation anxiety in their pets.
What is separation anxiety?
If your dog exhibits extreme behavior problems and distress when left alone, then it may be suffering from separation anxiety. It is afraid that you are going away and you will not come back for it. In this state of distress and anxiety, it can cause a lot of damage to itself and anything around it. It can also create a lot of disturbance by whining and barking uncontrollably. In extreme cases, dogs suffering from separation anxiety even run away from home in a panic.
If you have seen your dog exhibit these signs of separation anxiety, you may feel like you will never be able to leave the house in peace. However, it’s good to know that this is a problem you can fix. You only need to keep in mind that your dog is just acting out because it’s afraid you are abandoning it. Through some few tricks and tips, you can help it learn that all its worries are unfounded. With time it will be able to handle its emotions better and avoid throwing tantrums when you leave as it settles into the home.
Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs
Before you train your dog, you have to find out if it is suffering from separation anxiety or it is just unruly by nature. Some of the symptoms of separation anxiety to look out for in your pup include intense pacing and defecating or urinating indoors particularly on something you value such as a favorite pair of shoes. The dog may also go on a destruction spree tearing apart books, pillows and even chew on furniture. Anxious dogs also drool and bark uncontrollably while seeking escape routes all over the house. Sitting in a corner whining non-stop could also indicate signs of separation anxiety.
If your dog only exhibits these behaviors every time you leave it alone, there is a good chance that separation anxiety is the culprit. On the other hand, if it does this even when you are home, then look to other explanations for the bad behavior.
How to deal with your dog’s separation anxiety
Once you determine that your dog is dealing with separation anxiety, its time to find a solution. You may use a electronic or smart dog door (before, you buy one of dog doors, please read article Everything you need to know to find the right fit for your) to keep your pet from running off, but it will not be enough. Some people take extreme measures and give up their dogs, but this is counterproductive. It merely means the next dog owner will have more of such issues to deal with from the dog. Instead, try the following solutions to treat the anxiety and turn your pup into an obedient pet.
1. Train your dog
You can start by training your dog to stay alone starting with short periods and increasing the time lapses with each passing day. Select one room in the house for the purpose. Put a comfortable dog bed, some food and water in the training area. You could put the food in a food puzzle so that it takes some effort to get the food out. If it gets anxious, it can use this activity to blow off steam (like best dog fetch toys). Put some soothing white noise or music in the background. You can also leave a TV on for some entertainment.
Now go about your business in the room not interacting with the dog but just there working on your activities. You can read a book, watch TV, or clean the room. Just make sure you leave the dog to its own devices. Once it gets comfortable and busy on its own even when you are in the room, you can leave for a few minutes. Close the door, go off and do something else in the house for about ten minutes. Then go back to the room, and resume what you were doing all in silence completely ignoring the dog. Continue this exercise while increasing the time you are away until you can leave it for long periods of time without trouble.
The secret behind the success of the training method is routine. Dogs thrive on routine, and once you get them on one, it will be hard for them to stray from the habit. In the end, the message to them is that you always come back. It may take longer for some dogs to get the message but it is worthwhile in the end because it cures your dog of anxiety and makes it feel at home in your house.
2. House or Crate training for dogs with separation anxiety
You can also use a dog house or crate to treat separation anxiety in dogs. Train your dog to stay in a house or crate whenever they need to rest whether you are in the house or not. When you leave, they can stay in their crates or house where they feel safe and protected.
Put some kongs with hidden treats inside the crate or house as well as other chewy toys they like. The more comfortable and familiar their surroundings, the easier it will be for them to relax. Have a comfy dog bed for them to lie on with a comfort blanket in the crate or house. You could also throw in something with your scent to comfort them when you are away.
Apart from helping the dog feel secure, keeping the dog in the crate or house will also minimize chances of it destroying anything in the room or outside when distressed once you leave. If you make sure the dog makes a habit of spending time in the crate or house when you are home, it will do the same when you go without any trouble.
3. Exercise your dog
One reason for dogs acting up is pent-up energy. So you can get rid of some of this energy by exercising and playing with them a lot. The more time you spend with your dog exercising and playing, the less likely it is to act out when you want to leave the house. It’s even better if you take it out to places with other dogs such as to the dog park because it will get rid of the need for social interaction when you are away. When you leave them with enough food and some distractions, they may spend the time napping contentedly. However, if your dog is not having enough exercise, it will get frustrated when you stay away for long and end up exhibiting destructive behavior.
4. Teach your dog independence
Don’t allow your pet to be too dependent on you because they will become like babies. Instead, let it go about its business even when you are at home without slathering it with attention. When you leave or arrive, it should be without a lot of byes, hugs, and kisses.
Just choose a time when the dog is busy and go quietly. Make sure you have put out enough food and water. Also, ensure there is some form of entertainment such as toys and engaging puzzles to keep it occupied. Most dogs that have had adequate exercise early on in the day may spend a lot of time resting contentedly anyway. So just provide the dog with its needs and then leave it in its crate or in a room of your choice and it will relax.
5. Patience and commitment
You need to commit to an extended period of patience and training to help your dog get over separation anxiety. It is not something it can overcome in a day or a week. The longer you spend with your pup – often training it, the more it will understand that it doesn’t have to be afraid of abandonment because you are reliable.
Also, teach the dog that you are the boss, and it needs to follow your instructions at all times. If you are wishy-washy about your commands or training methods, it will lose trust and focus, and then you may have a big problem on your hands.
These are a few tips you can use to deal with separation anxiety in dogs. If all else fails, you can always take it to an experienced dog trainer for some professional help. You should also take it to the vet for check up in case some health issues are the cause of its discontent. Just don’t give up too fast on an anxious dog because you will have a loyal and loving pet when they overcome the problem in the end.