Separation anxiety is a common problem among dog owners. In fact, many people who adopted dogs during the pandemic have returned to work and are noticing distress in their new furbaby being left at home by themselves.
Behaviors of separation anxiety can include urinating, defecating, howling, barking, scratching on the doors to escape, and chewing on furniture. While it may be a display of poor house manners, it is also a form of communication to show they are feeling anxious and triggered. Dogs are pack animals, so, naturally, they have a strong desire to be with and protect their owner and family. It’s important to realize they are not acting out to upset you for leaving them, it’s rather a cry for help in understanding why you are leaving them alone. Instead of punishment for disobedience or giving up on your pup, staying calm while finding the root of your dog’s behavior will help your sweet pooch relax and feel peaceful while you are away. That way, there’s no stress for the doggo and no mess for you! Consider our tips below on how to help your dog stay zen while they are left at home.
- Take One Step at a Time
It is essential to start small when training your dog out of separation anxiety. Begin by leaving your dog in the kennel or house for just 5 minutes. Return with praise and a small treat as a reward. This will help your dog understand that if you leave, you will always come back. Increase his/her alone time and repeat these same steps. With positive reinforcement, your dog will begin to learn to feel at ease knowing you are not leaving them forever.
- Run Their Energy Dry Before Work
Take your dog for a leisurely walk or play a solid game of fetch to get your dog’s energy levels low and relaxed before you take off for the day. Taking them for a walk also gives them an opportunity to go potty before you leave which helps avoid any accidents at home.
- Give Your Dog a Delicious Distraction
Providing an abundance of mental stimulation is essential when treating doggy behavioral issues. Try giving your dog a chew toy, treat maze, or snuffle mat, that they only get while you are not home. This gives them an appropriate item to chew on and take out energy on versus destroying household items. What is better than a tasty treat you only get once in a while?
Tip: Give your dog a treat toy filled with frozen peanut butter to make it last even longer.
- Create a Calm Environment
Before you leave for the day, leave on some calming music, tv or fan for your dog. Listening to familiar sounds and background noise can help promote relaxation and calmness.
Still no results?The severity of your dog’s separation anxiety will determine whether the issue can be managed with or without help. If you feel like your dog’s situation is more than you can handle, try consulting with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). If a behaviorist is not available in your area, you can also seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) but ensure that the trainer is qualified to help you. Not all CPDT are educated and have experience in treating fear with desensitization and counter-conditioning. You can find one of these experts in your area by following this link from the official ASPCA website.