Separation anxiety in dogs can be one of the most difficult dog behavioral issues to deal with. Not only is it a difficult issue to deal with, but it could be costing you money through damage done to your home, furniture, or even vet visits from your dog harming him or herself. Separation anxiety can manifest itself in many ways from barking and whining to chewing through walls and doors. In any case, this is a problem that won’t go away by itself, so how do you fix it? Usually, curing separation anxiety is a multi-step and fairly lengthy process.
Before you can tackle the bigger problems, you need to have some of the basics covered. Until your dog has basic obedience training (sit, stay, down, come, heal, etc), solving your dog’s separation anxiety will be even more difficult. In fact, sometimes proper obedience dog training is all that is needed to cure separation anxiety. While seemingly unrelated, from your dog’s psychological standpoint, there could actually be a direct correlation. Proper leash training is also crucial to opening up communication lines with your dog. Focus on the basics first, then tackle the bigger problems.
Give Your Dog Plenty Of Exercise
Many dogs have separation anxiety, in part, because they get bored and lonely. A tired dog is less likely to show separation anxiety, so this is a good place to start. Remember, it’s not just physical exercise but mental exercise that is needed. Throwing a ball around outside for your dog is excellent physical exercise, but it doesn’t take much mental energy to chase a ball. There are many interactive puzzles you can buy for dogs and doing obedience training can also be mentally strenuous for dogs.
Make Leaving The Home No Big Deal
One way to rid your dog of separation anxiety is to make the event of leaving an insignificant event. What you can do is start going through all the motions like you’re leaving. Grab your keys and put on your shoes, but then immediately take your shoes off and put your keys down. Just go back to whatever you were doing. Once this doesn’t phase your dog, take it a step further. Do the same thing but go out to the garage and come back in. Once you do that and your dog doesn’t care, work your way up to driving around the block then leaving for 10 minutes, then 30, etc. Once you can leave your dog for a couple hours, you’ve pretty much solved the problem. The trick is to do this exercise as often as possible and slowly work your way up. Patience is key. Don’t push it and don’t be afraid to move back a couple steps when needed.
Don’t Punish Your Dog
When you come home and see your favorite pair of shoes in 300 pieces, you obviously aren’t happy about it. Unfortunately, punishing your dog has the opposite effect. Unless you catch your dog in the act, your dog will not associate the punishment with the shoe eating. Instead, your dog will associate the punishment with you coming home. That, in turn, only makes the anxiety issue worse. Ignore the bad, praise the good. It’s all you can do.
No doubt, if you have a dog with separation anxiety, you have a long hard battle ahead of you. But rest assured, it is curable and most dog trainers deal with this issue frequently. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a dog trainer. This is one behavior problem that needs to be dealt with delicately.
Bill Rogan a deep passion for dogs. He spends his weekends writing articles on stop separation anxiety in dogs.