Updated: Nov 14
September 15, 2020
🌟What are the signs of separation anxiety?
🌟If you are making preparations to leave, the dog may follow you from room to room. Other signs are pacing, excessive salivating, vomiting, barking, howling or whining. During your absence, your dog may engage in destructive behavior, often directed at the exits (windows and doors) or clothing or other items that have your scent. An otherwise house-trained dog may eliminate inappropriately. In severe cases, the dog may have a panic attack and hurt herself by breaking through windows or attempting to get out of her crate.
🌟 What can I do about separation anxiety?
If you have been told that your dog has mild to moderate separation anxiety, there are some strategies you can try to break the cycle of escalating anxiety. First, practice leaving without opening the door. Put on your shoes, pick up your keys, and walk to the door, but don’t leave. You may need to do this 10 times per day for weeks or months to quell your dog’s anxiety.
Another strategy is to walk into closets and close the door behind you. Wait one minute and then reappear. You can also exit via an outside door that you normally don’t leave through. Wait one minute and then walk back in. If your dog doesn’t appear anxious, try two minutes and add time if the dog continues to be comfortable with it. Back off on your time, however, if the dog becomes stressed.
Once your dog is comfortable with you leaving through the back door, you can start working on walking out the main door and returning after a short period of time. Again, gradually increase the time according to how your dog handles it. Practice as many absences as possible that last less than 10 minutes.
🌟Here are some additional tips to improve your chances of success:
🌟Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Being physically tired helps everyone to relax.
🌟Offer the dog a Kong toy stuffed with treats before practicing the leaving-and-returning exercises.
🌟Ignore the dog before and during the exercises.
🌟Provide background noise (the radio or television) during the exercises. The background sounds may provide a reassuring cue that you will return soon. You can also use a word as a cue. Say the words (“I’ll be back” or “Later”) every time you exit.
🌟Keep your arrivals and departures as quiet and calm as possible. Don’t indulge in long goodbyes or excited greetings.
🌟Depending on how severe your dog’s case is, you may not be able to leave the dog alone at all during treatment. If you do have to leave, minimize the time that the dog is alone. Use a dog sitter, dog walker, or doggie day-care; have the dog stay with a friend or family member at their home. Inquire about the possibility of your dog going to work with you.
🌟If your dog is suffering from severe separation anxiety, an individual evaluation with a behavior specialist is recommended. Together, you can create a plan to relieve your dog’s anxiety and keep him safe. Resolving separation anxiety may require months of work from you, but please don’t give up on your dog. Most of the time, this condition responds to treatment. If your dog is not improving or you are feeling frustrated, seek professional help from a behavior specialist.