You leave your house and your dog is barking and howling and won’t stop all day. You come home after work and your dog has destroyed the blinds on your living room windows or chewed up your furniture. You put your dog in his crate and he digs at the gate, frantically trying to get out. These are some canine behaviors signaling your dog may suffer from stress and behavior problems when left alone.
Sadly, such behavior problems are one of the most common reasons why owners get rid of their dogs. This is unfortunate because these kind of behavior problems can be treated by implementing a few simple strategies.
Before you label your dog as having "Separation Anxiety" make sure that the behavior only occurs when the dog is left alone. For example, if you have a dog that is destructive while you are at work, but also tends to chew up your valued belongings when you are at home, your behavior issue may not lie with separation.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The following list contains the most common behaviors associated with separation anxiety. When your dog exhibits only one or two occasionally, he may not suffer from separation anxiety.
Most likely, he does if he shows multiple signs and behaviors whenever he is left alone.
True separation anxiety means that your dog is experiencing his anxious stressful state the entire time he is left alone. Therefore, you cannot punish the dog for any of these behaviors!
Here are some tips that can help you recondition your dog into new calm behavior.
Provide Physical Exercise and Mental Stimulation:
One of the most common issues that lead to anxiety in dogs is a lack of exercise. Many pet owners will exercise their dogs in the evening, after work, but hurry out of the door in the morning before giving their dogs any type of physical activity. When you have a dog with behavior issues, such as constant barking or destructive behavior, the first step to eliminate the unwanted behavior is to provide physical exercise for the dog.
A good 30 to 45 minute walk, just before the dog is to be left alone, is one of the best remedies for separation anxiety. The walk, on-leash, actually provides more stimulus and drains more energy, than a similar off-leash exercise.
When you walk your dog, ensure you require him to behave on the leash. Don’t allow the dog to walk you. You should expect your dog to walk on a loose leash, preferably next to you, not in front of you.
If walking your dog isn't practical you can provide mental stimulation by doing some obedience indoors. Go through a few calm exercises, like "sit", "down" and "stay".
We do not recommend playing fetch or other high-energy games just before you leave your pet. Remember you are looking to create a calming effect, not a high-energy state of mind.
Review Your Arrival and Departure Rituals
Another reason why a dog might display anxious behavior when the owners are not present, is that the dog has become accustomed to high level of excited energy at the owner's departure and arrival. Dogs learn over time, so if you and other family members always make a big deal out of leaving and getting back to the home, the dog has been conditioned to associate the happy, excited energy with these times. He is using barking or destructive behavior to recreate this level of excitement when he is left by himself.
Teach your dog to be in a more calm and balanced energy, by coming home calmly and without much fuss. It is best to not touch or pay any attention to your dog in the first few minutes. Simply come in and put your things away and ignore the dog. Wait until he has calmed down and then pet and reward that calm state of mind.
Do the same as you leave him. If you crate your dog while you are away, put him into the crate several minutes before you actually leave. This way, he will not associate being crated with you leaving him. If your dog runs free in the home, do not allow him to follow you to the doorway. Create a regular habit of expecting space around the entryway.
You can have a special treat or chew toy for this time. Give the treat or toy when you leave in a calm and quiet way. You don't want your dog to get all excited about it. Rather leave it on his dog bed and then leave the home.
Provide a Comfortable and Nurturing Environment:
Provide comfort for your dog while you are gone. Set up an area that is secure and put down his bedding and some of his toys. Leave some music or talk radio playing while you are gone. This background noise helps to calm the anxious dog and can also drown out any outside noises, that may cause an anxious or excited dog to bark for attention.
Practice While You are at Home
The most important aspect of helping your dog with separation anxiety is to practice for short periods of time. This way the dog is left alone and then sees you returning. Dog behavior modification takes time. You have to repeatedly condition the dog to the new and wanted way to behave. To do this, practice often, for short sessions, when you do not have to leave your pet.
Calmly set up the home as though you are leaving. Put on the background music, give the special treat and leave the home as you usually would, but only for a very short time. When you come back, do not make a lot of fuss over the dog, but rather be calm and ignore him. Take away the special treat and just go about your day.
Repeat the short exercise again and again, each time allowing the dog to be left behind for a bit longer. The dog will associate your leaving ritual with calmness and with the understanding that you always return shortly.
Once the dog remains calm for a few minutes, you can extend the amount of time you are gone.
Thank you for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed the information provided. I would love to see your comments.
Until next time: Keep Your Paws on the Road!
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