Helping Your Dog Overcome Separation Anxiety

Most canines want to spend as much time as possible near their owners. Knowing their owners are nearby gives them a sense of comfort. When left alone, many dogs begin to cry or whine.

Separation anxiety is a more serious issue. A canine suffering from this behavior problem becomes increasingly stressed when his owner leaves him alone, or leaves him in the care of another person. This can tax the owner’s nerves, and strain his or her relationships with neighbors. Below, we’ll describe some of the signs of separation anxiety. You’ll also learn how to help your pet overcome the disorder.

How To Identify Separation Anxiety In Your Pet

Dogs react differently when they become stressed due to isolation. Some become vocal, barking and whining loudly until their owners return. Others will adopt destructive behaviors. They’ll dig holes and rip up gardens and grass outside, or destroy furniture and other objects indoors. Still other animals will eliminate indoors to relieve their stress.

Canines with severe separation anxiety may display nervousness about being left alone when their owners are home. For example, if left in another room, they might check periodically to make sure their owners are still nearby.

Training Your Canine To Be Independent

A lot of dogs become anxious when left by their owners because they have never been taught to be independent. Their attempts to seek attention in the past have always been rewarded. The first step toward reducing an animal’s separation anxiety is to discourage such attempts. If your dog barks or whines in a bid for your attention, refrain from giving it to him. Instead, reward him when he has become calm.

Minimize Your Dog’s Reaction To Signs Of Departure

Think about the things you do when you are preparing to leave your home. You might put on your shoes, remove a water bottle from your refrigerator, and pick up your car keys. Your pet will quickly recognize these signs, which can cause him to become stressed.

One way to address your canine’s reaction to these “signals” is to perform them throughout the day, even when you have no intention of leaving. Doing so will help sever the connection your pet has made between picking up your keys and being left alone.

Engage Your Pet’s Mind

Silence and the absence of distractions can amplify a canine’s feelings of isolation. Provide your pet with stimuli that will engage his mind in your absence. For example, give him a few toys, and change them periodically to prevent him from becoming bored. Test different types of music, and play the type that relaxes him at low volume (leave it on when you leave).

Another tactic is to give your dog a treat the moment before you leave your home. Though he may dread your departure, the treat will help him form a positive association with it.

Also, if your pet enjoys chewing objects (or even tearing them apart), give him an old piece of clothing or pair of shoes to play with. The activity will distract him, and can suppress his feelings of isolation.

Separation anxiety can become a distressing problem for dogs and their owners. If your pet displays signs of the disorder, be patient with him, and take the steps above to help him control it.