Does Your Dog Have Separation Anxiety?

As a Central Valley Dog Trainer, I have met dogs over the years who have torn through drywall, destroyed furniture, busted out windows and torn up carpeting. This destructive behavior happens when their pet parents are not home and is called separation anxiety.

Understand that dogs are pack animals and really don’t understand the concept of being alone. Whether you’re going for a walk or running a short errand, your dog doesn’t understand your departure. Which is why when you come home you are greeted with a lot of love and joy. Many dogs get stressed when their pet parents leave. Unless you take clear steps to reassure your dog, it may become anxious and agitated.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety can be moderate or severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Destruction. As mentioned earlier, your dog may destroy things inside or outside.
  • Escape. In an attempt to get back together with you, your dog may chew through a door or scratch a window frame or dig large holes under a fence. In some severe cases, dogs have been known to throw themselves through a plate glass window. This can be very dangerous!
  • Urinating or defecating. Even dogs that are housetrained may poop or pee in the house upon your departure.
  • Barking and howling. Some dogs may bark uncontrollably when their parent’s leave, which can be very disturbing to the neighbors.
  • Excessive drooling and sweating in your absence: Your dog might also drink excessively to make up for the lost fluids.
  • Pacing and Panting: This behavior is usually displayed when your dog suspects that you’re getting ready to leave the house. Some dogs can also show signs of depression during the pre-departure period.

How Bark Busters Helps You Overcome Separation Anxiety
The number one way to help your dog overcome separation anxiety is to establish yourself as the leader of the pack. Strong leadership provides dogs with a sense of balance and security which in turn gives them the confidence to stay calm when they’re left alone.

The easiest time to start is when your dog is a puppy. Puppies adjusting to a new environment are anxious enough, so leave then alone for a short period of time and then gradually increase the time you are away. One easy way to accomplish this may be through crate training, creating a cozy environment where your dog feels secure. Make sure the crate is large enough for your dog to stand up and is in a quiet part of the house. This will allow your puppy to have a “den” where it can relax. Add a comfortable bed and a variety of toys. Initially leave the door open and allow your pop to explore the space on its own. Once your puppy becomes used to spending time in the crate, you can start to shut the door for short periods of time. Be careful not to leave puppies inside crates for more than a couple of hours at a time, as younger dogs need more frequent toileting breaks.

Before you know it your puppy will adjust to spending time without you in its sight. Most of your dog’s anxious responses will take place within the first 40 minutes of being left alone, so your separation anxiety training should be focused on getting your puppy over this hump. Once you’re sure that your pet can comfortably deal with your absence over this period, you can safely extend your absences to more than a couple of hours with ease.

Some Other Tips for Overcoming Anxiety

  • Leave your dog with something that smells like you in his crate.
  • Leave some fun interactive toys around the house or in its crate.
  • A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Take him for a walk right before you leave.

Do not punish your dog for bad behavior after you come home.  Dogs relate punishment to their current behavior so they will be unable to link your actions to their previous misdeeds.

If you need help with separation anxiety call Barbara Gazley, an experienced Bark Busters trainer. I have helped hundreds of dog owners overcome separation, anxiety, barking and more.

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