How To Successfully Combat Canine Separation Anxiety

Leaving your dog home alone

When you get a dog, the last thing you want them to suffer with is separation anxiety when you leave.  It’s perfectly normal for dogs to have anxiety when their humans are gone. After all, they’re social animals. 

But, although it’s normal, it’s not something you want them to feel needlessly. You know you have every intention of returning, but your canine friend doesn’t. How can you teach your dog that it’s okay for you to leave and that you’ll be back?

While the process should begin when they’re a puppy, you may not have had that luxury (if you got an adult dog).  If you notice your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, talk to the vet to ensure your dog is in good health. If everything checks out, find a highly-knowledgeable and experienced behaviorist to help you get control over your dog’s emotions.

How To Reduce Your Dog’s Anxiety

If you want them to feel relaxed while you’re gone, you should build up their confidence in the home first. Believe it or not, you don’t always have to give your dog your undivided attention. If you’re too busy, consider the following tips to help you “train” your dog for the times you may actually be gone.

  • Set up a bed that’s comfortable for them to be in. Make sure it’s in a quiet area of the home. When they’re in it, don’t disturb them.
  • Use a chew toy to encourage them to stay in their bed while you do something else. Your dog will associate the bed with the good times, and be willing to go there on their own.
  • Your dog is a friend, and they want to be around you whenever possible. However, it’s a good idea that your dog be taught not to follow you everywhere you go in the home. You don’t want them to think you’ll always be there. If they’re following you, act as if you don’t see them. Don’t touch them or make eye contact. Most importantly, don’t talk to them. It sounds mean, but you’re doing yourself and them a big favor.

Special Note: Never tell them to “go away” if they’re following you. This only creates confusion and makes them find ways to get your attention. The best thing you can do is reward just the good behavior and ignore the undesirable one.

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Spend More Time Away From Your Dog

Your dog needs to understand that you won’t always be there, but the separation from you needs to be done gradually to get him/her acclimated to it. The best time to practice minute times away is when both of you are calm.

  • Use a baby-gate on doors. This teaches your canine friend that he/she can be away from you without worrying. They can still see and hear you, but they just can’t physically be in the same room as you. When you go into the same room as them, give them a treat such as a chew toy. You want them to associate this time alone with something fun.   
  • Stay out of sight for a few minutes at a time, then increase it to something longer. Continue increasing the time away, unless you see them getting anxious.

The idea is to get them acclimated to the idea that you’ll be gone for long periods of time but will return. It’s okay to reduce the time away again if you notice your dog isn’t comfortable with you being gone for extended periods. Remember though, your goal is to get them comfortable with the notion.

How To Prepare Your Dog For Your “Extended” Absence

  • Take your dog out to use the restroom and get some exercise before you leave.
  • Fill their bowl with water before you leave.
  • Don’t rush around trying to get things done. Rushing can cause your dog’s anxiety to rise because he/she doesn’t know what’s happening.
  • Create a routine for when you leave. Have a special word or phrase to use when leaving. Your dog understands routines, and hearing this special word or phrase helps them to understand what’s about to happen. Dogs love consistency and routines.
  • Give your dog their food-releasing toy, which should last 10 to 15 minutes after you’re gone.
  • Place an old piece of clothing on their bed
  • Leave the radio or TV on to reduce the outside noises.
  • Don’t stay gone too long, as your dog will need to use the bathroom at some point.

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