How To Stop Separation Anxiety In Dogs
As a pet parent, your goal is to find the best calming anxiety treatments for your pet. Treating separation anxiety in dogs does not require a medical professional, and you can succeed on your own with persistent work and dedication. Dog anxiety treatment includes behavioral changes that will help your pup learn that being alone is not scary. Here is a list of 10 dog calming treatments:
What To Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation AnxietyModerate or severe cases of separation anxiety require a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program. In these cases, its crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.
The following steps briefly describe a desensitization and counterconditioning program. Please keep in mind that this is a short, general explanation.
Step One: Predeparture CuesAs mentioned above, some dogs begin to feel anxious while their guardians get ready to leave. For example, a dog might start to pace, pant and whine when he notices his guardian applying makeup, putting on shoes and a coat, and then picking up a bag or car keys. Guardians of dogs who become upset during predeparture rituals are unable to leaveeven for just few secondswithout triggering their dogs extreme anxiety. Your dog may see telltale cues that youre leaving and get so anxious about being left alone that he cant control himself and forgets that youll come back.
Medications Might HelpAlways consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem.
The Importance Of Obedience Training And Discipline
I believe much of the cure for separation anxiety comes from obedience training and discipline. This approach lets your dog know what is expected of him, helping his good behavior to become a habit. He feels wrong showing an unwanted behavior even without you indicating it. Take advantage of that.
Spend time trainingnot just classes once a weekoften and consistently. Show your dog what you want from him in and around the house, and during daily routines. Two minutes here, five minutes there. Not just going for a walk but training him as you go to sit at curbsides, and sit when meeting others, people and dogs.
Teach your dog to sit at the door, lie down, and stay while you go out of sight for increasing periods of time in your own house. Train your dog to sit and wait to be greeted by guests, move aside when you go to the refrigerator, and go to the bathroom on cue. In general, you should be teaching your dog in small steps to be a respectful and have confidence in himself.
Rehabilitation begins by having your dog know what is expected of him. You and other members of your family are the pack leaders, and you need to be recognized as such, not as dictators, but as leaders. For example, if your dog comes up to you and nudges your hand, or slaps you with his paw. You think this is cute and he is petted. This becomes a habit, and now your dog thinks I am in control and I can tell you what to do. Then, when he cannot carry it out, he becomes stressed.
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Where Can I Get Professional Help
If your dog does go on to display ongoing signs of separation anxiety, it is important not to ignore these and to contact your vet who can refer you to an accredited behaviourist. Theyll be able to fully assess your dog to find out why they dont cope with being left alone and come up with a treatment plan to help. How separation problems are treated will be individual to each dog, so it is important to seek professional advice to help guide you through the problem.
Exercise Your Dog Before Departure
A tired dog is a calm dog. Exercising at least 30 minutes before departure will relax your dog and divert its attention to food and sleep.
Below is a useful video guide for the best workouts you and your dog can do together:
If you dont have time to go outside, watch this video for tips on how to exercise your dog inside the house:
Strategy : Use A Crate
Crate training can also be useful for preventing separation anxiety. Dogs are den animals, and teaching them that their crate is a safe place to retreat to when alone can help keep them calm and prevent them from destroying your house!
The key to crate training is to make the crate a wholly positive experience. Your dog should come to think of their crate as their own little haven. Furnish the crate with beloved toys and cosy bedding. You could even put an old piece of your clothing in the crate so your dog has your comforting smell nearby.
Leave the crate door open the first few times so your dog doesnt become anxious and learns to associate the crate with positive feelings. And of course, theres nothing most dogs find more positive than food, so give them treats inside their crate whenever they lie inside quietly. You can even give them dinner inside their crate.
Slowly build up time with the door closed until your dog is happy spending time there.
Make sure you encourage your dog to use the crate when you are in the house, too it should not only be associated with alone time. When your dog is alone in the house, leave the door of the crate open so they can wander inside as they please.
Set up for success: Ensure your dog is well exercised, goes outside and has something to eat before you leave the house.
Change Your Morning Routine
Most people have a routine they follow before they leave the house: shower, dress, put on a coat, grab keys, walk out the door. Once your canine has recognized your routine, its anxiety can start building from the first step. This means anxiety doesn’t just begin when you walk out the door. Instead, it starts when your alarm clock goes off or you turn on the shower. The anxiety escalates as you engage in your typical routine. By the time you leave the house, the dog may already be in a full-blown panic.
To prevent this mounting anxiety, make some changes to your own behavior. Pay attention to the things you do before you leave the house and begin doing them randomly throughout the day. For example, you can grab your keys and sit down to watch television or put on your coat and feed your dog. Within a few weeks, your dog should no longer see these your activities as connected signs you’re about to leave, and some of the anxiety should be eased.
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Start Leaving Pup In A Room Safely
Do this while you go and get your shoes, make a cup of tea, get showered. Pup proof the room by removing anything that could be chewed or cause harm to your pooch while unsupervised. Start off at a level your pooch can cope with, such as 10-15 seconds, gradually building to minutes and eventually a couple of hours.
Vary the time left alone in short bursts throughout your day. Dont do continuous concurrent increments. Make it variable, with the general idea being you increase the time left alone over time. Give your pup something to do when you increase the time.
Teach Them To Settle On Command
Teaching your dog a command to be relaxed and settled will help them calm themselves in situations when they are stressed.
- Once your dog is able to repeat that behaviour and stay in one position in a relaxed posture, you can add in the word settle or calm as your verbal cue. The key to success is to keep practicing this!
- The next step is to try to get up and walk away. If your dog instantly gets up with you, then simply ask them to go back to their bed and get them settled again. If they are consistently getting up and following you, ignore them and only reward them quietly when another calm behaviour occurs.
- When your dog remains relaxed and calm, keep the rewards coming in a quiet manner you want to teach your dog that staying in this position is a very rewarding thing to do. As they start to get the idea, you can start to gradually increase gaps between rewards. Its best to give rewards on the floor you want being on the floor to be the rewarding place to be.
- Start the training in a quiet area and only move onto more distracting environments once the calm behaviour has been learned.
- When this has been mastered, you can get your dog excited then use your command to train them to become relaxed and calm when excited.
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How To Treat It
First, talk to your vet to rule out any medical problems. Sometimes dogs have accidents in the house because of infections or hormone problems or other health conditions. It also could be due to incomplete housebreaking. And some medications can cause accidents. If your dog takes any drugs, ask your vet if they are to blame.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety might learn their persons predeparture cueslike putting on a certain uniform, making lunch or organizing a briefcaseand begin to exhibit stress responses before their person even leaves.
Once the dog is alone, they might exhibit any or all of the following hallmarks of separation anxiety:
Pacing: Dogs that are panicked by their persons departure might be unable to settle down and might resort to walking back and forth repeatedly.
Vocalization: Barking and howling are common canine responses to isolation, but dogs with separation anxiety might continue vocalizing the entire time theyre alone.
Loss of appetite: Separation anxiety can cause even the most food-motivated dog to ignore treats and bones.
Destruction: Many dogs suffering from separation anxiety destroy small household itemslike the remote control or pillowsor resort to large-scale destruction, like tearing through furniture, walls, doors or windows.
Elimination: Dogs that are house-trained might have accidents while alone, including diarrhea.
Drooling: Some stressed dogs drool excessively and wind up with a soaked chin and chest.
Escape: Dogs with severe separation anxiety might be able to escape confinement, which can result in injuries.
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What Is The Difference Between Separation Anxiety And Normal Canine Behavior
Before labeling destroyed cushions or potty accidents as SA, be sure its not a case of inadequate training. Does your dog truly understand good manners, even when youre not watching him? Is he 100% potty trained? One of the best ways to see whats really going on in your absence is to audio or videotape your dogs behavior while youre away.
If Your Dog Shows Anxiety When You Briefly Leave Them You Can Help Improve Their Response
For any dog that shows signs of panic at this stage of the game, this is a great time to work on improving their response to being left alone. “It’s a gradual process of using small absences that start to teach the dog that absences are safe,” said DeMartini-Price.
However, the method shouldn’t be reserved for dogs that are already likely candidates for separation anxiety. DeMartini-Price believes dogs that have never shown separation anxiety in the past may be most at risk because there is less understanding of what may be happening when the dog is left alone.
While it’s important to get space from your dog during the day, it’s equally important not to withhold your affection when you are together. “Give your dogs love, give them attention, and don’t think your dog has to ask for everything with a sit. None of that has to do with your dog getting separation anxiety,” said Pratt. “I’ve actually seen dogs get worse . That’s weird to them and that causes stress.”
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Give Your Dog A Safe Comfortable Space Of Their Own
Make sure you leave your dog in a safe area of the house so if they do try to chew or destroy anything they cant be injured. Make sure its the right temperature and they have a safe comfortable bed to relax in.
Some dogs will happily use a dog flap to get out into a secure garden if they need the toilet. If a dog flap isnt suitable for your home, someone will need to come and let them out regularly so they can have a toilet break.
How To Stop Dog Separation Anxiety
While there any many methods youll see which will address the symptoms, the only way to end it for good is by addressing the root cause. By showing your dog that you are their pack leader you will solve the problem.
Your dog is experiencing anxiety while you are away because you have let them believe that they are the one in charge, that they are the leader of the household pack. To them, you are their pup or another member of their pack.
In the wild, a dog would not wander off on its own away from the den without causing a great deal of stress. So when you let your dog believe that they are the pack leader, and you leave the home, they get very worried!
Establishing yourself as pack leader is a crucial step to raising a happy, obedient dog. And given the right instruction, its actually much easier to learn than youd think.
Im of the view that its much quicker and more effective to learn by watching a master at their craft rather than just reading about it. Theres an excellent free video series ran by world-renowned professional dog trainer Doggy Dan which will show you how to be your dogs pack leader.
You can . Dan will show you in short, easy to follow videos how to show your dog that youre in charge and end their separation anxiety. He also addresses other common issues including barking, aggression, and housetraining.
Follow Dans instructions and you should have all this craziness behind you soon! Make sure to pin this in case a friend needs help too!
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Why Do Some Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety
There is no conclusive evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, because far more dogs who have been adopted from shelters have this behavior problem than those kept by a single family since puppyhood, it is believed that loss of an important person or group of people in a dogs life can lead to separation anxiety. Other less dramatic changes can also trigger the disorder. The following is a list of situations that have been associated with development of separation anxiety.
Change of Guardian or FamilyBeing abandoned, surrendered to a shelter or given to a new guardian or family can trigger the development of separation anxiety.
Change in ScheduleAn abrupt change in schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone can trigger the development of separation anxiety. For example, if a dogs guardian works from home and spends all day with his dog but then gets a new job that requires him to leave his dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog might develop separation anxiety because of that change.
Change in ResidenceMoving to a new residence can trigger the development of separation anxiety.
Change in Household MembershipThe sudden absence of a resident family member, either due to death or moving away, can trigger the development of separation anxiety.