Dog separation anxiety and what can be done about it
Does this sound familiar? You arrive home from work. Your dog is a jumping ball of energy. When you head towards the living room with dog in loyal tow and as you open the door there is your favourite pair of slippers – totally destroyed by chewing.
There is a knock on the door. It’s one of your neighbours, and he has come to tell you your dog has been barking and howling all the time you’ve been away.
The fact is that your dog, through no fault of its own, may well be suffering from dog separation anxiety.
It stands to reason. In their natural environment – before they became domesticated – dogs are extremely rarely away from their pack.
As responsible dog owners it’s therefore our primary job to help our dogs come to terms with the unnatural world they find themselves in. We need to make the situation much less stressful!
There are five steps that will help you ease your dog’s separation anxiety, without disrupting your lifestyle:
Take your dog for a walk before you head out of the house.
Begin every day by taking your dog for a quick walk. Make the walk as rigorous as possible if you can by using a dog backpack with extra weight (e.g. tins of food) added. When you get back your dog should be calm and submissive, so reward him or her with water and some food. It shouldn’t be a big meal because dogs need to rest before eating properly, but all dogs benefit from hydration. The aim is to leave your dog resting quietly when you leave.
No big deal.
When you go out of the house and when you return don’t make a big fuss. The aim – by not touching, not talking and certainly not looking your dog in the eye – is to communicate that being apart is not important. It’s business as usual! Of course there are dogs that have severe dog anxiety, and in these cases you may well need to practice not touching, not talking and not looking your dog in the eye from five minutes up to an hour before you depart and after you return.
If you need to, say goodbye long before you go out.
If you find it difficult to ignore your dog when you go, just take a moment to tell your dog that you will miss him or her long before you open the door and go. The fact is your dog’s feelings will not be hurt if you don’t say goodbye.
Assert your calm!
Ready to go to work? Drop any nervous and guilty feelings. Your dog needs to feel everything is fine and that is the message he or she is getting from the Pack Leader. Calm assertiveness from the leader eases separation anxiety in dogs.
Start by just leaving for a few minutes.
As you no doubt already know, our dogs like their routines. So give them a new one. If you start by leaving your dog for just a few minutes, then extend this time to 30 minutes in stages, you will eventually be able to increase the time you’re away to up to eight hours without any more dog separation anxiety!
If you have a story about your dog and separation anxiety please share your experience. Tell us what you can in the comments.