Separation anxiety is a fairly common problem for today’s modern dog. There are many factors that contribute to this specific form of anxiety, and it is an issue that typically takes a lot of persistence in fully resolving. If your dog is suffering from moderate to severe separation anxiety, I would strongly advise you to seek the help of a professional. For mild cases, or for the sake of prevention, here are some tips to help ease the symptoms of this problem.
- No big hellos or goodbyes. Don’t make a fuss about leaving or coming home, it should be the most uneventful part of your dog’s day. When leaving the house, don’t get caught up in long, emotional goodbyes to your dog. If possible, don’t even say anything, just causally leave like it’s no big deal… because it’s not! When returning home, resist the urge to give in to your dog’s excitement to see you. Wait until your dog has calmed down to greet him and give him attention/affection.
- Exercise. A tired dog is far less likely to exhibit behavioral issues. Make sure that your pup gets plenty of exercise in the morning before you leave for the day. Lack of exercise contributes to a build up of energy in the dog which is easily channeled into anxiety, frustration, nervousness and even panic if not given the proper outlet.
- Mental stimulation. Dog’s get bored too! Often times, destructive behavior is simply due to a lack of mental stimulation. If you don’t provide your dog with any activities to do in your absence, she may be forced to find her own! Best not to leave it up to chance. Leave plenty of fun and engaging activities for her while you are out. Frozen kongs, smart toys and chew toys are all great options. You can even make a game of it by leaving little treats hidden around the house. When you leave, tell your dog to “Go find” (after teaching the cue, of course) and let her off on a fun and delicious scavenger hunt.
- Dog-proof the home. This is important for dogs of any age, but particularly for younger dogs and puppies. There are all kinds of enticing things waiting to be explored in your house, but many of these things could potentially be dangerous to your dog. Before leaving your dog alone with run of the house, make sure to dog-proof. A great way to do this is to get on your hands and knees at dog level, and get a dog’s eye view of your home. Anything that looks like it could be chewed, tugged at, pawed at, sniffed in or curled up on should be safe for Fido to interact with. If leaving your dog in a crate, be sure that there are no wires, cords or cables within paws-reach of the crate.
- Cultivate confidence and independence. A great way to prevent any kind of separation anxiety in the first place is to cultivate a sense of confidence and independence in your dog. Of course we don’t want a dog that is too independent and doesn’t listen to us, but we don’t want a dog on the other end of that spectrum either. Dogs that are overly coddled and sheltered can quickly develop such a strong attachment to their owner that they fear being alone. Avoid this by resisting the urge to coddle. You can also practice confidence-building exercises with your dog, and be sure to give your dog plenty of socialization and exposure to the outside world.
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