Pet tips: Separation anxiety in dogs
The term separation anxiety in dogs is a term to describe the stress and anxiousness in a dog brought on by separation from the primary pet caretaker. Separation Anxiety can vary from mild to severe.
Mild to Moderate Separation Anxiety
For mild cases of separation anxiety, don’t make a big deal out of arrivals and departures. For example, when you arrive home, ignore your dog for the first few minutes then calmly pet him.
For moderate separation anxiety:
1. Practice leaving without opening the door. Put on your shoes, pick up your keys, and walk to the door, but don’t leave. Do this a few times per day for weeks or months to quell your dog’s anxiety.
2. Walk into closets and close the door behind you. Wait one minute and then reappear.
3. Exit via an outside door that you normally don’t leave through. Wait one minute and then walk back in. If your dog doesn’t appear anxious, add time if the dog continues to be comfortable with it.
4. Start working on walking out the main door and returning after a short period of time. Again, gradually increase the time according to how your dog handles it. Practice as many absences as possible that last less than 10 minutes. If your dog appears stressed when you appear, you’ve left for too long. Try shorter periods of time to help your dog become more comfortable in your absence.
Additional tips to improve your chances of success:
• Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Being physically tired will help him relax.
• Provide a Kong toy stuffed with treats before practicing the leaving-and returning exercises.
• Ignore the dog before and during the exercises.
• Provide background noise (the radio or television) during the exercises. The background sounds may provide a reassuring cue that you will return soon. You can also use a word as a cue. Say the words (“I’ll be back” or “Later”) every time you exit.
• Keep your arrivals and departures as quiet and calm as possible. Don’t indulge in long goodbyes or excited greetings.
Severe Separation Anxiety
Use the techniques outlined above. Teach your dog the sit-stay and down-stay commands using positive reinforcement. This training will help him learn that he can remain calm and happy in one place while you go to another room.
Create a “safe place” to limit your dog’s ability to be destructive. A safe place should:
· Confine loosely rather than strictly (a room with a window and distractions rather than total isolation)
· Contain busy toys for distraction such as a Kong or Buster Cube.
· Take your dog to a doggie day care facility or kennel when you have to be away.
· Leave your dog with a friend, family member, or neighbor when you’re away.
Remember that punishment isn’t effective for treating separation anxiety and can make the situation worse. The destruction and house soiling that often occur with separation anxiety aren’t your dog’s revenge for being left alone; they’re part of a panic response.