How to Ease Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

By Valdette Muller| July 24, 2019 | Blog

Separation anxiety happens when a dog that’s hyper-attached to his owner gets super-stressed when left alone. 

If you have to leave your dog on his own and it brings on a reaction such as anxiety, this is common in dogs. This is usually caused by an over-dependence on an owner. It can be the result of being weaned too early, abandonment, or simply due to the temperament and personality of your dog. Other reasons to the separation anxiety can include:

  • Being left alone for the first time when your dog is used to being with people
  • Change of ownership
  • Moving  from a shelter to a home
  • Change in family routine or schedule
  • Loss of a family member

What to look out for

You leave your dog at home alone to go to work or just to go to the shops for twenty minutes, then you return to an over-enthusiastic, spinning, jumping whirlwind of energy.

You then discover your dog has chewed on the table leg or your favorite pair of shoes, or your dog has emptied the rubbish onto the floor, destroyed a pillow or had a pee in your hallway. Your neighbor comes by to tell you that, once again, your dog has been driving the neighborhood crazy by howling and barking while you were away. Do these scenarios sound familiar?

It is a difficult but not impossible to condition and to treat separation anxiety. With consistence and patience you can overcome the destructive behaviour associated with separation anxiety.

Punishment isn’t the answer

Punishing your dog is the last thing you should do when it comes to these type of situations. Your dog won’t associate the mess with the punishment that she receives a few hours later. Your dog may appear to act guilty but this is simply submissive behaviour. Dogs don’t feel guilt but they can anticipate a punishment.

Looking down, tucking their tails between their legs, slinking, showing their bellies, these are all ways that your dog shows submission, not guilt. Punishment only treats the symptoms of separation anxiety and not the root cause.

Tips on how to deal with your dog’s separation anxiety

Start by exercising your dog before leaving the house. A brisk walk or jog can help get out most of your dogs energy. This will in a way tier and relax your dog more before you head out.

Do not make a big deal when you leave for the day or when you return. This way, you are communicating to your dog that the time apart is no big deal. It’s just business as usual! Depending on the severity of the dog anxiety, you may need to practice the rule for five minutes or up to an hour before you leave and when you get back.

Give your dog a special treat each time you leave (like a puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter). Only give him this treat when you’re gone, and take it away when you get home.

Consider giving your dog over-the-counter natural calming supplements.

Stay calm and assertive over the situation of leaving. Before leaving to go to the shops or to work, make sure to not let those feelings of guilt, nervousness and concern show to your dog. Be confident in your decision to leave the house, this will let your dog know that everything is going to be okay.

Start out small by leaving your dog alone for 5 min at a time. Then gradually extending the time.

Sources: https://www.wellnesspetfood.com/our-community/wellness-blog/6-ways-beat-dog-separation-anxiety-during-back-school-season

https://www.hillspet.co.za/dog-care/behavior-appearance/dog-separation-anxiety

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