Dog's Separation Anxiety

There are times that a dog owner might think that his or her relationship with the dog is going great but unknowingly this greatness may cause a problem called separation anxiety. Separation anxiety happens when your dog is over-attached to you and distressed, which means that it is more likely that s/he will chew stuff or urinate in the house when s/he is left alone, his or her ownership is changed or there is a change in the routine schedules. Your dog might have this problem also if s/he gets very anxious when you are preparing to leave the home, follows you everywhere you go and greets you with abnormal excitement when you arrive home. But there is nothing to worry if you follow the steps below to fight with separation anxiety!

Know The Difference

First of all, you should decide if your dog is experiencing real separation anxiety or simulated separation anxiety. Simulated separation anxiety can be exemplified as the following: when you arrive home for example, if you treat your dog with extreme positivity, then s/he will associate his or her daily anxious behavior while you are out, with a positive attitude from you, so the negative behavior will be reinforced. You can try for a few days not to reward your dog by not paying attention to him or her upon your arrival at home and observe if s/he repeats the same behavior. If she does, then you can continue following the next steps, if not, then you already fixed your problem!

“You should decide if your dog is experiencing real separation anxiety or simulated separation anxiety”

Tip 1 Leave Enough Calming Stuff

The aim of this tip is to keep him busy and calm. First of all, you should leave enough food and water to make sure that s/he is feeling comfortable. Secondly, you can leave some appealing toys so that s/he would not get bored and stressed while you are out. As well as these toys can be self-moving toys to satisfy your dog’s prey drive and chase instinct, they can also be comforting dog toys such as chewing toys for him to release his stress or toys with comforting scents. And yes the latter exists. Lastly, you can leave stuff to make him less lonely. An effective way for it would be leaving your blanket or something else with your scent on it so that s/he would feel more relaxed. Another thing that you can do is that to keep sound of human voice going in the house. You can do this by leaving the radio, tv or an audio book open. This way s/he would feel less lonely and better cope with separation anxiety. 

Tip 2 Don’t Reward Your Dog

As discussed earlier if you show affection when you are leaving home or when you arrive home, then your dog will think that s/he is doing a good thing because s/he gets what s/he wants. To prevent that, during your leaving and arrival you should act as if nothing special happened so that the dog perceives this to be nothing special and just a routine thing. If you want to say goodbye before leaving or spend some time after arrival, you should do these by leaving at least 15 minutes in between your actions so that your dog will not associate your behaviors with your arrival and his undesired behavior. Additionally, for the mornings only, you can try keeping your dog busy by giving him some food or some toy while you are preparing. This way hopefully s/he will not get as sad as before and you may be able to at least overcome the separation anxiety problem in the mornings.

Tip 3 Do Enough Exercises

It is important to keep your dog mentally and physically satisfied if you want to deal with separation anxiety. Your dog will get the necessary satisfaction if s/he does sport activities. This is especially relevant for the mornings just before you leave. A short walk before you leave will satisfy your dog’s mental and physical needs and this means that he will be relaxed and happy when you leave him alone. So if you do that, he is much more less likely to engage in undesired behaviors when you are away.

Tip 4 Use Behavior Modification Techniques

There are several behavior modification techniques but we are going to talk about two that works very well when combined. For the rest of the behavior modification techniques, you can click here. The two techniques are called desensitization and counterconditioning. Very simply put, desensitization weakens the negative association with a negative trigger, in our case your dog being separated from you, and counterconditioning help your dog link the prior negative association with something positive. Let’s explain this with an example. Your dog gets stressed when you doing things that shows you are going to leave such as taking your keys, putting your jacket on, preparing your bag and so on. So, to show your dog that it is okay, one thing you can do is that, to prepare but not to leave so that your dog slowly stops associating it with you leaving. You should detect which actions exactly causes your dog to be stressed by changing the order of actions and observing closely which of those makes your dog anxious.

After you detect those, if taking your keys makes your dog stressed, then you can take your keys and not leave. This way your dog will slowly disassociate you taking the keys and being alone. Or another thing you can do is that teaching your dog that being alone is OK. You can do this by leaving him alone with toys in his crate while you go to gym, or take shower for example. However, it is important to keep in mind that you should leave your dog alone first for short times first rather than leaving him for a full weekend! You can also use remote pet technology to give your dog treats for being alone. You can read more about pet technology here. So, you can combine desensitization and counterconditioning as we have described above. But before you do, it is good that if you know about what to pay attention to while you are doing this.​

Things to Keep in Mind While Conditioning Your Dog’s Behavior

  •  Use treats that you think are valuable to your dog for sure.
  •  Use the treats only for this problem so your dog forms a clear association with them
  • Do not exceed your dog’s threshold level as doing so might even foster your dog’s negative behavior.
  • Make sure that your dog senses the trigger and doesn’t eat treats continuously without a reason
  • Always adjust the pace of the process keeping a close eye to how your dog reacts to it 

So, in this article we have examined the reasons causing your dog to have separation anxiety and gave you some tips about how to overcome this problem. We hope that this article provided you enough information about this topic. For more articles please click here!