How to Help Your Dog Overcome Separation Anxiety

Do you come home to find Fido has made a new mess for you to clean up? This may be due to separation anxiety. When our pets act out it is a sign of inner turmoil. The key to overcoming is to find out the root cause.

What owner doesn’t enjoy an over emphasized welcome from his best friend ready to jump and lick with tail flailing all around in delight when he walks in the door after a long hard day? As joyous as it is, it is only feeding the anxiety of your pet. Dogs are social animals with very keen insight into the feelings of those around them. All the hype can leave your pet experiencing a low once you leave causing a form of depression and separation anxiety can occur.

Separation anxiety may be recognized in your pet once you begin your leaving ritual. They may hear the sound of the keys clang as you pick them up or notice you putting on your shoes and coat, as dogs are very smart, they can anticipate what actions come next. They may yelp, whine, or shake when you begin to leave the house. Not only is separation anxiety present when you are leaving but an over excited welcome at your return or constantly following you around the house when you are home are also signs that your pet is struggling. The infamous scenario of returning home to find that your dog has done his duty in the house or destroyed other items is a tell tail sign that your dog has a separation disorder. Other destructive behaviors like chewing, digging, howling, fence jumping, and scratching at doors and windows often occur. A pet may even lick his paws until a raw “hot spot” forms in order to gain attention. A common misunderstanding is to think that these behaviors are done out of vengeance but in reality your pal is panic-stricken.What can you do?

While their are many different reasons why dogs experience separation anxiety such as a change in routine, loss of a companion, or a change in environment, the good news is that the behavior can be changed. It does require a commitment on behalf of the owner, but if done with consistency, it will yield relieving results for both you and your pet.

Toning down the entrance when you arrive home is the first place to start. Avoid loud noises when entering and wait to acknowledge your dog until he is in a calm, submissive state.

Next, be sure that your dog knows some basic commands like sit and stay so that you can help him to exercise some self control. Start by having your dog stay in a separate room from you where he can still see you, then gradually move further away until you are out of his sight. Take note of your dogs response. Does he whimper or move closer? Reward him with a treat for good behavior but don’t expect him to overcome his issues in one day, be patient.

Third, get your dog accustomed to your exit regime. Get your keys, put your coat on and sit down. Do this until the dog is comfortable with your actions. When he seems to handle this well enough, take it a step further to opening the door and then sitting back down.The goal is to progress to the point where it doesn’t even phase your furry friend. It is important to ignore your dog during this exercise since frustration and even affection will exasperate his response.

Lastly you are ready to take your dog to the final stage of training and reward him for his efforts and calm behavior while you are away. Use dog toys stuffed with treats such as a Kong with peanut butter inside. Place the treat filled toy near the door and make sure your dog is aware of its presence. Now leave the house for a few minutes observing your dogs demeanor as you return. If he is engulfed in the goodies that you left for him then he is ready to be left for longer periods. However, if your dog is stressed and oblivious to the treats then you should reduce the amount of time away and continue practicing the previous steps. Eventually he will learn that the treats are on focused on the treats, you know you can increase the minutes you are gone. Always remove the treat once you return home and eventually your dog will learn that the treats are only available when you are away and associate your leaving with a positive experience.

Your consistency with these steps is imperative to your dog’s success. If however you have done it all to a T and your dog is not responding, then your dog may have a more serious case of anxiety and it is time to seek help from your vet or a professional dog trainer. If your dog is crate trained then locking him in the crate when you are away can provide a place of comfort and refuge for him. Do not leave a dog in a crate if it seems to exasperate his anxieties or he tries to escape which can result in hurting himself.

Last but certainly not least, a good long walk can do wonders in helping to release energy and bring your dog into a calm, obedient state. When possible plan his walks before you will be leaving the house while still using the treat leaving method to help him divert his energy off of you leaving. As the saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

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