My dog has separation anxiety: What should I do?
There's nothing worse than trying to leave your home for work and having your fur ball try to escape with you, screaming or crying. We know they do this because they love you, but it may also be because they are afraid! When you leave the house, they don't know when you'll return, so it's a stressful time for them.
If your dog is nervous or scared when you leave, it's probably a case of separation anxiety, meaning that your dog has a hard time being without you, which is pretty cute on paper... This is only natural, as dogs love company and rely on you for most things in their lives. If your dog is crying, whining, barking, biting the furniture or urinating inside your home, he may have attachment issues that need to be addressed.
This can be emotionally traumatic for all parties involved: your dog, your neighbors and you, who all have to listen to your companion bark with grief every day. Not to mention that you may find yourself cleaning up messes around the house or replacing furniture far more often than you expected...
The best way to overcome these behaviors is to take the time to educate your dog so that he feels more confident in his own company, and knows that you will come back! We've put together some great methods to get you started, so you and your dog won't be sad when you have to leave the house. These methods are sure to give your dog the confidence and sense of independence he needs to feel more comfortable when he is on his own.
Help for dog separation anxiety: Practice spending time alone
Getting started with training can be difficult, especially if you have to regularly leave the house for an extended period of time. But that's the most important part: dogs don't want to be left alone, but sometimes events force them to stay home without you.
So start with short periods of absence to begin with. The best thing to do is to use a familiar environment, such as your dog's bed or a room where he spends a lot of time. Encourage your puppy to go there and praise him when he settles in. Praising him will confirm that he's doing the right thing.
Then, leave the room, normally; without making a big deal about it. Walk quietly out of the room, and go somewhere out of sight or out of earshot of your dog for a short time. When you return, if he has stayed there and remained relatively calm, praise him. This will let him know that he can stay in one place without becoming destructive or emotional, and he'll know that when you return, you'll be as happy to see him as he is to see you!
If you leave for 10 minutes, for example, and you notice that your dog starts to get upset after a few minutes, reduce the amount of time you leave and increase it gradually. You don't want him to howl or cry every time you leave the room. Keep in mind that all dogs are different and some are more emotional than others.
Help for separation anxiety in dogs: Leave a scent
Dogs' most powerful sense is unsurprisingly their sense of smell, which means they are very sensitive to your scent; that of their best friend and guardian. Being left alone can make your dog feel vulnerable and insecure, so providing a little comfort will help him stay calm when you have to leave for a while. So find an object, perhaps a toy or piece of clothing you've worn recently, and place it in his bed or in the room you've chosen as his familiar space. The comfort of your scent will help him feel more secure and calm while you're away.
Separation Anxiety Assistance for Dogs: Day groups
Of course, there is the option of not leaving your dog alone, you can take him to a daycare where he can spend time with other dogs! Socialization is also good for your dog's well-being and tends to improve his confidence. Approaching new friends can be scary for some pets, so practicing in a safe environment is an added bonus!
Doggie day groups are a great way for your furry friend to spend time without you while having fun. It may be a good idea to spend some time with your dog at first, to get him used to it, and then leave without too much fuss. When you return, praise and show love. You'll both be happy to see each other and come home together after a long, busy day!
Help for dog separation anxiety: Toys
Sometimes the way we treat our dogs would be the same as the way we treat human children...a special gift may be needed to keep your dog distracted and calm. The purpose of this toy is to provide your dog with excitement and joy when you leave, so that he forgets that he is going to be left alone. Mind-bending games are great for keeping him busy for a long time, but regardless, finding a toy he likes to play with is the most important thing. But make sure it's a safe toy that doesn't present any hazards, such as choking, or have sharp edges that could cut your dog. Plus, when you take the toy out, it will prepare him for your departure.
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