5 Tips To Help Solve
Separation Anxiety In Your Dog
It's really starting to feel that now that we've gotten used to our routine of the pandemic when we go out our dogs stay behind at home. This means our dogs have been spending more and more time away from us.
After four months of constantly having us around them, it's a major shift. If you've been seeing stress in your dog when you leave, this is the perfect training article for you. You're going to learn five tips and tricks to help your dog deal with you not being around.
Hey, if this is the first time we're meeting, I'm Dogtor Emerald, my mission is to give those training their own assistant or therapy dog, tips, tricks, and tools to help them succeed in their dog's training.
Many people are seeing varying levels of stress and anxiety from their dogs when they leave them alone. Dogs display this anxiety in the form of whining, crying, or even destroying items when their owners are not around.
Unfortunately for most dogs, their separation anxiety is going to get worse with time unless if their owners help them through it.
Tip #1: Slowly Increase The Distance
In our first tip, we're going to get our dogs used to being away from us, even when we are home. By starting off with a short distance, while you're home, your dog will have an easier time acclimating to being away from you.
To accomplish this, you're going to utilize your dog's crate, kennel, or tie-down. Place your dog's crate in the same room you'll be in and place your dog inside. The amount of time your dog needs to be in the crate initially doesn't have to belong, somewhere in the range of 5-15 minutes to start. As your dog becomes more comfortable in the crate away from you, increase the amount of time from 15 minutes to 30, then 45 minutes.
Don't be surprised if your dog whines and cries while they are in the crate initially, especially if they are not used to being in the crate. If you need, put on some headphones to help you ignore your dog's cries of protest. After the time is up, you can let your dog back out of their crate. It's extremely important that you only allow them to come out of their crate when they are quite. By taking them out of their crate because they are barking can teach them that this is appropriate behavior to get out and be back next to you.
To increase your dog's ability to comfortably and confidently be away from you, place them in their crate in different rooms from you, and eventually shut the door so they are completely alone in the room.
Work on this tip several times a day to slowly acclimate your dog from being away from you! This is the beginning and foundational pieces of ettin your dog used to spending time away from you. When you do leave your dog home, they won't be so worked up and we'll also build on the work you've done in tip two from applying the above steps!
Tip #2: Give A Dog A Bone
Have you ever had to sit on the sidelines or sit out when your friends or family members went out for an amazing time? Like when you're at hockey practice and your parents take your siblings for pizza and ice cream? I certainly have been in that boat but who's holding on to those memories right?!?
That's how your dog feels anytime you leave them alone, even if you're just in the other room. Your dog is a pack animal, so it should come as no surprise that they always want to be part of the action with you, unfortunately, we can't bring our beloved friends with us everywhere.
How do you help them not feel so left out and ostracized then?
Right before you leave, give your dog something to distract themselves with while you're gone. This may be as easy as giving them food in their crate or a new toy/bone as you're leaving.
The idea is to keep your dog distracted and not focused on their separation anxiety while you're gone. As I mentioned before, there's nothing worse than having to sit there experiencing all of the emotions that come with you leaving or being away from them.
If you're going to use a dog toy or dog bone to help with your dog's separation anxiety, make sure it's appropriate and safe for their age and you not being there to supervise.
Next time you plan to leave your dog home, pick up a hard chew bone for them so they can spend their time enjoying their new prize rather than sitting in the emotional pain of you no longer being right next to them!
Tip #3 - Take A Seat And Stay Awhile
Now that our dog is used to being in their kennel and loves his special treats or toys he gets to enjoy while you're not around, it's time to start rewiring some of their expectations and behaviors.
A common part of a dog's separation anxiety isn't actually you being away from them once you've left. It's the build-up of you preparing to leave which can really set a dog's separation anxiety into overdrive.
To help reset your dog's expectations and physiological and mental state, you're going to practice getting ready to leave without actually leaving your dog's side. By going through the motions of preparing to leave but not departing, you are desensitizing your dog to the buildup of you exiting through the door.
You want to get your dog used to the idea that just because you're putting on shoes, grabbing your purse, wallets, or keys, doesn't actually mean that you'll be leaving. Do this a couple of times throughout the day over a period of a week or two and you'll notice your dog visibly less stressed when you put your shoes on, grab your keys and then go and sit back down, to read a book or (*cough... cough) watch some more Working Canine Club's YouTube videos on training your dog.
By taking these steps over a period of time, your dog isn't associating all of these different actions to mean your about to leave them home by themselves and that they should start stressing out.
Eventually, you can start getting ready to leave and your dog won't be getting worked up for those five or ten minutes that just builds and builds and builds. Instead, they're like, "Oh yeah, I've seen them do this before. This is no big deal. This is just simply part of their routine and what they do."
Tip #4 - Don't Make A Scene
Leave the house in a very calm manner, don't make a big deal of it.
You've already practiced with your dog on being in the kennel, feeding them, giving them toys, having them get used to you putting on your shoes, filling your water bottle, grabbing your keys. Now, when you actually leave, you're going to place your dog in the kennel, and walk out the door.
You're not going to make a big production of it, you're simply going to exit the area. This strategy is exactly the same when you come home, I want you to be very nonchalant. When you get home and let your dog out of their kennel, you're not going to be all excited to see them. Simply open their kennel, give them a couple of pats to let them know that they're doing a great job, then moving on with your day to day to day activities.
You're not going to make a big scene about you coming home to your dog, because all that does is add to their separation anxiety when they're like so anxious about you already being gone. When you finally do return home, you make a big deal like, "Oh yes, thank goodness I am home all is right in the world!"
Be very calm and collected when putting your dog into or letting them out of their kennel so they don't have to feel those icky emotions of being left alone.
Tip #5 - Slow And Steady
Any time you're working with you're dog you want them to be successful and working through separation anxiety is no different. When first starting off, slowly increase the amount of time you're away from your dog. Initially, you may only leave your house for 5 minutes. All you might have time to do first is go down your drive and get the mail.
Eventually, start taking a walk around the block and over time slowly increase the periods of time that you are away from your dog. The reason for this is if your dog is getting more and more comfortable with you being away for small amounts of time, they'll start to become comfortable with longer amounts of time. If your dog is comfortable with you being away for 30 minutes, it's much easier for them to tolerate you being gone for an hour or two. Eventually yes, you want your dog to be fine with you being gone longer but slow and steady wins the race when solving separation anxiety. Your dog will have had practice with you being gone so they'll know you'll be coming back and everything all good.
The idea of small amounts of time away from you, in the beginning, is akin to a child (or adult) learning to swim with floats on as opposed to being thrown in the deep end and learning to swim. By working through the above tips, you're making it far easier for your dog to successfully shed their separation anxiety instead of making it worse.
You're making your dog's time away from you an enjoyable one where they get to spend time in their kennel with their favorite toy by themselves. As you transitioned back to work over potentially the next few weeks or for others over the course of months, your dog will be well prepared and not in a panic.
One of the big shifts for your dog, especially if they're a puppy, is having four months with you around you all the time. If you suddenly disappear on them for half or a full day, that's a huge shift and can be really, really hard for your dog. They don't understand what's going on or how to deal with it if you don't spend the time acclimating to bein alone.
You're changing all of the rules that you've set in place over these past four months, especially during their developmental period (if you got them as a puppy at the beginning or during the pandemic). Keep this in mind as you're working through your dog's separation anxiety, there may be some setbacks along the way and that's okay.
When working with your dog on their separation anxiety or whatever you're working on, be positive, stay patient, and keep consistent.