6 ways to combat separation anxiety
It is surprising to many pet owners to discover that separation anxiety is a learned behavior. Animals observe every detail of our body language and emotions, and this sends them messages that we may not notice. For example, when we act sad every time we leave our dog, we teach our dog to be sad when we leave. Here are a few tips from our expert dog trainer, Sha, on how to relieve your pet’s separation anxiety.
“Ignore” Your Dog
When we leave our dogs, we naturally want to say goodbye. And when we come home, we want to excitedly greet our dogs who are always so happy to see us. This is natural, but to many dogs this encourages separation anxiety. Before you leave, keep your goodbyes calm and extremely short: do not get excited or emotional. When you return, do not give your dog any attention until they calm down from the excitement of seeing you. Reward the calm.
This applies to any time you’re saying “good bye” to your dog, such as dropping your dog off at day care or with groomers. Sticking only to calm farewells and greetings will go a long way for your dog’s well being.
Reinforce Crate Training
Go back to basics and reinforce that the crate is a good place to be. A crate is a safe place when you are not home, and it can help prevent not only destruction from anxiety but also avoid injury if your dog ingests something they shouldn’t. Feed meals in the crate, give special treats and toys in the crate, and let them sleep in the crate at bed time.
Partake in Confidence-Boosting Activities
Confidence boosting can be something like joining an agility class or as simple as adding one to two 5-minute training sessions a day with your pup to work on commands or even new tricks. This type of quality time builds their confidence through positive interactions and training.
Celebrate Alone Time
Work on teaching your dog that alone time is a good thing. You can do this by letting your dog have time in his crate when you are home. This teaches him that the crate is a good place that’s not only used when you are leaving the house. This is beneficial to your dog because it helps to break the association that crate = you leaving = freak out.
Teaching your dog certain commands can help your dog gain enough confidence to be alone. Specific commands that help are a solid Down-Stay or a Place command. Both of these will help build your dog’s confidence and encourage your dog to be comfortable being away from you while also strengthening your bond.
Shake Up Your Routine
A dog with separation anxiety often begins their anxiety when they recognize the routine you go through to get ready to go (i.e. putting your shoes on, getting your purse, getting your keys, turning off lights in the house, putting on your coat etc.). Make a list of your patterns and do them randomly throughout the day without the end result of leaving. This will help eliminate your pet’s anxiety triggers and will make it much easier for your dog to remain in a calmer state of mind when you do leave.
Our mission is to help every family communicate better with their pets and to better understand where certain behaviors derive from. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety you may also want to consider our dog obedience classes. Call us at 386-673-8189 to learn more.