If you’re a lucky puppy owner, you’re most likely prepared to cope with quite a few behavioral issues your pup might have. But if you find it impossible to leave your dog alone without it feeling stressed and overly emotional, you might be dealing with separation anxiety in dogs.
Dog separation anxiety comes with some distinctive symptoms that require your immediate attention if you want to prevent further complications. However, the good news is, proper training can help your dog with separation anxiety. Let’s take a closer look at how you can do it.
Why Does a Dog Get Separation Anxiety?
Dogs are fascinating creatures, and understanding their behavior is the key to making your puppy happy and your life easier. Dog separation anxiety is very common for both puppies and adult dogs. Yet, the sooner you identify it, the easier it’ll be for you to help your furry friend cure it.
Before we get started with the training tips, let’s see what exactly dog separation anxiety is and what can cause it.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Suppose your dog starts feeling worried when you’re leaving the house, follows you around all the time, ruins furniture and other household items when you’re not home, defecates and urinates inside while you’re away. In that case, it might be experiencing separation anxiety.
While these signs aren’t hard to spot, they might also be indicators of so-called simulated separation anxiety resulting from bad training and misbehavior. So, before diagnosing your pup with separation anxiety, make sure it’s not the lack of self-control and inadequate training.
Unlike simulated dog separation anxiety, true dog anxiety describes the behavior when your dog is extremely stressed from the time you leave home and until you return, making your favorite dog go through an actual panic attack.
Here are a few ways your dog might be expressing separation anxiety issues:
- Excessive barking or howling
- Destructive chewing
- Excessive salivation, panting, or drooling
- Whining and trembling when you’re leaving
- Frequent urinating and defecating accidents inside the house
- Attempts to escape create or the house itself
Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
While there’s no concrete answer to why some dogs tend to suffer from separation anxiety and some don’t, this condition is real. The only thing you need to remember is that your pup isn’t trying to punish you or make you feel bad. It simply wants you to come back home.
Here are a few things that can trigger separation anxiety in your dog:
- A traumatic event from the past (e.g., previous owners left it and never came back)
- Being left alone for the first time
- Being used to always be around people
- A family member passing away
- A family member moving out
- A change in the family-s routine
Once you identify that your doggo is experiencing separation anxiety, it’s time to help it overcome its fears. It might not be easy, but it’s definitely worth your time and effort.
How to Help a Dog With Separation Anxiety?
Sometimes, vets can prescribe anti-anxiety medication for your dog, but it’s not a real cure for separation anxiety. Yes, it can calm your dog down and help you better manage the training process. But mostly, it’s up to you as a dog owner to help your furry friend learn to stay home alone when needed.
Here are a few ways to help your dog with separation anxiety:
When it comes to separation anxiety training, you have to start from somewhere. That’s why it’s crucial to know your dog’s threshold for separation. In short, you need to know when exactly your dog starts feeling anxious. Is it before you even left, 10 seconds after, or only a few hours after?
The best way to do it is to use a camera to record how your dog acts while you’re supposedly gone. If you see that your dog can’t handle it even for a few seconds, it means you should start from there.
Don’t expect your pup to be okay with you going away for hours from the beginning. Start from small and increase time increments gradually once you see success.
Here’s a possible training scenario you can try:
- Start walking towards the door, open it, and close immediately without leaving, walk away.
- Walk to the door, step outside, close the door behind you, and return straight away.
- Come to the door, press the door handle but don’t open the door, release, and walk away.
This can help you decentralize your dog gradually and help it get used to different scenarios and actions.
Normalize Your Departures and Arrivals
As much as you want to show excess amounts of love and affection to your dog every time you leave or arrive back home, it’s the last thing you need to do if you want to cure your dog’s separation anxiety.
It means that you‘ll have to stop making a big deal of your departures and arrivals, normalizing them as much as possible. We know it can be hard, but try ignoring your dog for a few minutes when you return home and only pet them. This will help your dog understand better that it’s okay for you to leave and be absent for some time.
Establish “I’m Leaving” Phrase
Trust is vital for any relationship, including a human-dog relationship. Let your puppy know it can trust you. This can help your dog accept the fact that you're leaving the house with much less stress.
Come up with a word, phrase, or action that would let your dog know that you’re leaving and are going to come back. However, remember to keep up your promise. If you’re saying you’re going to come back soon but don’t, it might cause a more severe reaction to your future departures.
Keep Things Different
Unfortunately, dogs aren’t as good at generalizing as humans. They’re creatures of habits, and some of those habits can affect their lives significantly. So, if you want to train your dog that suffers from separation anxiety, you need to do it at different times.
If you only train your dog at 8:30 am, your fluffy friend might believe that it’s the only time you’ll leave home. And if you need to go at any other time, the dog might not apply what it learned at 8:30 am. So, by training your dog at different times of the day, you help it understand that you might need to leave at any point throughout the day.
Taking breaks in dog separation training is crucial for both you and your dog. This type of training is pretty stressful for your pup, and it also needs time to process things. Make sure you take at least one day off from training your dog.
It’s important not to ask too much of your dog. Try to spend no more than 30 minutes per day training your dog. Dog separation anxiety training requires time and patience, so be ready for that.
Best Dog Crate for Separation Anxiety
Proper crate training can help you with treating your dog’s separation anxiety. However, it’s crucial to help your dog associate its crate with good things like chew toys, making it a safe and comfortable place to be.
Once your dog can stay in its crate for a while, even when you’re home, it can make it easier for them to see you leave. Of course, you wouldn’t want your pup to spend the whole day in a crate, but it’s critical to let them know it’s a safe place to be no matter what.
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