Canine Separation Anxiety is a serious condition and it can be challenging to treat. Anxiety problems in dogs fall into three categories: noise anxiety, social anxiety, and Canine Separation Anxiety which is the most serious of all. Here are tips to identify and deal with Canine Separation Anxiety.
Dogs with anxiety have several symptoms including barking, pacing, panting, excessive licking, hiding or trying to escape. An anxious dog can be very aggressive and destructive which makes it even more frustrating to manage.
To address Canine Separation Anxiety, experts recommend 3 critical changes:
- no long emotional goodbyes
- plenty of treats and toys for an alone time
- turn down the homecoming
1. No long emotional goodbyes
When you put your dog in his ‘room’ or area when you go out, don’t have a long, emotional good-bye. Simply walk away. It’s even a good idea to ignore your dog starting 5 minutes before you leave. Don’t draw attention to your departure.
Change up the things your dog associates with your departure. Also, try and teach your dog not to associate certain behaviors of yours with your leaving the house and being away for hours. Vary your behavior; dogs are good at associating specific actions with certain outcomes. Putting my boots on has generated crazy anxiety on the part of my little dog, because to her it means I’m going out, and for a long time!
Try changing your dog’s negative associations to your behaviors to positive ones. For example, on the weekend, go through the same motions you do during the week. Get dressed for work, pick up the car keys and go outside. BUT just for a few minutes, then come back inside and give your dog a treat. Your dog will eventually begin to associate you getting ready for work as positive rather than negative.
2. Plenty of treats and toys for alone time
Make sure you have plenty of treats and toys in your dog’s ‘room’ or closed-off area to keep him entertained while you are away. If your dog always knows that he’ll have treats when you leave, it won’t be as traumatic for him.
Before you leave, turn on a radio or television, so your dog has some noise. A talk station is more effective than music because the sound of human voices seems to be comforting.
3. Turn down the homecoming
When you return home, ignore your dog for a few minutes. Go quietly about your concerns, then calmly acknowledge his presence and let him outside to eliminate immediately.
I used to speak to my little girl in a very high, excited kind of voice. That, of course, got her more worked up, signaling to her that my homecoming was BIG, which made departures all the worse.
What if this doesn't help your dog's Canine Separation Anxiety?
Your Veterinarian can help you and your dog conquer Canine Anxiety Disorder. He/she might recommend a calming type medication, behavior modification or other therapies. Tactics can include:
- more exercise to tire your dog physically and build his confidence
- additional training, to stimulate your dog and take his mind off the anxiety disorder
- homeopathic, herbal and nutritional supplements
- behavior modification/desensitization – a professional trainer can help, teaching you desensitization techniques
- swaddling or pressure – many dog parents swear by the ThunderShirt for treating anxiety (Read more here)
Will another dog help?
Not likely say, experts. In fact, you can end up with TWO dogs suffering from this condition because of the amount of anxiety the original dog can transmit to the new guy.
Things that will NOT help separation anxiety
Punishment will not only fail, but it will generate more anxiety and nervousness in your dog. Higher levels of humane discipline won’t help either.
Obviously, those are the last things you want to increase.
Remember your dog is not bad or spiteful and is not destroying your house just to get revenge on you for leaving her, though it may seem that way. Instead, you are dealing with a very fearful and upset animal.
Crating your dog for long periods while you’re out can be a real mistake if he suffers from separation anxiety. While it keeps your own possessions and surroundings safe, your Morkie may hurt himself or get much more excited by trying to ‘escape’ the crate. The crate itself, a wonderful training tool, will come to mean you’re leaving and all that goes with that for the anxious dog.
When you pay close attention to your dog’s behavior, you are better able to identify his bad behaviors and correct them through training exercises. Your dog wants your attention and love, so use this to your advantage when you are training. Keep in mind that good quality dog training resources can help with this issue.
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