How to break a dog’s separation anxiety
If a familiar scenario for you is coming home to chewed up items, loud barking throughout the time of your absence and a whirlwind of excitement after returning from a day at work, your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety. In nature, dogs being separated from their pack is very unnatural, so below are some tips on how to break your dog’s separation anxiety.
Causes of separation anxiety
Sometimes, dog separation anxiety can be unknowingly provoked by the owners. Owners often reward a dog’s concern in their absence by fussing the dog when leaving or returning from being away. This then encourages the dog to become more and more stressed every time the owner leaves. Dogs feel the need to be with us as we are their source of confidence and security. They need to develop the trust that we will return.
Another cause of dog separation anxiety is sometimes a lack of exercise or boredom. Not allowing the dog to go through with their natural drives and instincts can cause it to become stressed and this results in destructive behaviour. For example, retrievers are born to carry and terriers are born to dig. Aim to develop a relationship where the dog has confidence in itself and in your leadership. This will allow the dog to be confident in being left alone as they trust that you will come home.
Treatments of separation anxiety
It is possible for drugs to be prescribed for dog separation anxiety by vets, however, it is not a cure. They are only a temporary support mechanism that calm the dog’s senses and do not tackle the root of the problem.
From the moment you get a puppy, the prevention should start. When a puppy is taken from a litter, this is very unnatural for the puppy and causes a lot of distress. Usually owners reward the puppy for crying by showing it affection. One example of this is when a puppy is in a crate crying and we let it out to show it sympathy. This is making the puppy believe what it is doing should be rewarded. Instead, we should teach the puppy to be quiet, patient and to entertain itself with toys. The puppy should be rewarded with affection and sympathy when doing these things only.
Discipline and obedience training is very important because it shows the dog what is expected of it. Regular training should occur consistently in small steps. For example, when walking a dog, train it when passing other people and dogs etc. Also, teach your dog simple things with commands, like “sit”, “lie down” and “wait”. This will allow the dog to see that you are in charge and it will allow it to have confidence in itself.
In your everyday routine, your dog picks up on all of the things you do. Changing your routine will show your dog that they don’t have to follow you everywhere. For example, go through a different door when leaving the house or when your dog gets up whenever you get up, just stand up then sit back down again. These changes will help it to have the confidence it needs to be on its own.
Helping your dog cope with separation anxiety
There are lots of different things that you can do to help your dog cope with dog separation anxiety whilst it gets better. One idea for giving your dog a sense of security whilst you are away, is putting an item of clothing that you have recently worn in its bed. Also provide them with something they can chew to relieve any stress. Stair gates are also a good way to help your dog become used to being alone, as they are not as scary as a closed door. And it doesn’t make them feel as stressed.
Taking your dog for a walk before leaving the house is calming for the dog as when you come to leave the house you will be leaving your dog in a state of rest. Trying not to make too much eye contact or talking too much will show the dog that you leaving isn’t a big deal as it happens everyday.
Punishment will not help the situation as this could cause the dog to lose trust in the owner or it could worry them about the owner returning which could make the situation a lot worse. Punishments given on returning home will be of no help, as when a dog is being punished they link it to what they are doing in that moment in time not what they did before their owner came in.
At Green Lane Farm, we provide trustworthy and comfortable pet care services, ensuring that when you’re away for long periods, your pet is in safe hands. Our friendly team are trained and experienced in all aspects of caring for dogs – simply contact us today to book your pet in or get advice about separation anxiety when leaving a dog to go on holiday or away for work.