Just like humans, dogs sometimes feel lonely or bored when their people are not around. They can become anxious or stressed when not in the presence of their loved ones. When left unattended, dogs often get into mischief or act out destructively just to get your attention, even if it means getting themselves into trouble. If you have ever come home to a ransacked house, chewed up shoes, or destroyed furniture, then most likely the cause was separation anxiety.
Dogs are naturally pack animals. They like to be around others of their kind, and they like to follow a leader. This natural instinct is why dogs tend to get separation anxiety when left alone at home, especially if no one has shown them that they're in charge.
Dog owners can play an important role in alleviating dog separation anxiety by giving the pets clear directions about what behavior is expected of them while people are gone during the day. For example, many trainers recommend teaching dogs simple commands such as "sit" or "down" so that the pets know what's expected of them while you're gone or out of sight. Other than teaching dogs useful commands, it's also helpful for owners to take steps toward building up their dogs' confidence while the pets are alone, giving them more of a reason to stay calm and relaxed when left by themselves.
For some dogs, coping with separation anxiety might be as easy as having the owner leave the radio or TV on while they're gone. The sound of familiar voices can help comfort anxious pups. Taking steps toward lowering their stress levels is important because over time, if not managed properly, separation anxiety can lead to destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation or house soiling.
Some breeds tend to get separation anxiety more than others. Dogs that have high energy or are particularly intelligent also seem to suffer from it more frequently than other breeds.
Here are some tips on how to help with your pup's separation anxiety
1. Desensitize your dog to their triggers.
You should also find out what triggers them to start acting anxious so you can avoid it yourself while trying to desensitize them. For example, after they have woken up from naps or while they're eating. Try not to give them a ton before you leave and while you're gone.
2. Leave a music or TV on when you leave the house for long periods of time.
Classical music has been proven to relax both kids and adults alike so there's no reason why it wouldn't have the same effect on a pooch. Don't be surprised if your dog starts dozing off and drooling all over the place - it's a natural reaction to calming sounds.
3. Start with short periods of time and slowly increase the length of time being left alone.
Start getting in the habit of making small departures and gradually working up to longer absences. In order for this to work, you'll need your dog's cooperation and a lot of patience. To do this, simply pretend that you're heading out for work or running an errand every time you leave for short periods of time. If your pup is acting anxious before you even get to the door , go back inside and wait patiently until they calm down.
Once your pooch is not showing any signs of distress before you leave, then it's safe to say that they are ready for bigger and better "journeys" throughout the day! Practice leaving and coming back in 30 second intervals and gradually work up to waiting 3-5 minutes each time . Once you've reached 5 minutes, try going out for 15 minutes at a time and gradually work up to 45 minutes and an hour.
4. Don't punish your dog with aggressive training methods
Aggressive training methods only worsen their anxiety until they are literally scared to death
It can be frustrating when your pup is going crazy from being left alone, but any sort of punishment will just add fuel to the fire, even more so if it's harsh. Speak firmly to them in a normal tone of voice. Your dog is very intelligent, they will know the difference between yelling and talking normally.
If your dog has pent up energy from lack of physical activity , they'll be more likely to act out when left alone.
6. Make sure their entire routine is as normal as possible before you leave
Dogs are creatures of habit, and the way they feel about the world around them depends on how happy they are in their environment. Therefore it is important to establish a routine to give your dog structure and confidence. Dogs thrive on routines and a routine will let your dog know what to expect each day and when to expect it.
7. Do not let them see you leave
Make sure your dog can not see you leave, and definitely do not stop and look back at the door before leaving.
If your pup does not notice when you leave, then there's nothing for them to be nervous about.
8. Take them to doggie daycare or drop them off at a family member's house
Most doggie daycares have a daily schedule. If you take them to doggie daycare a couple times a week, they are too busy with activities and socialization to become anxious. The routine is also very helpful.
9. Teach your dog how to use their crate properly
Make it a safe zone. A safe place to sleep. Make sure your dog has a comfy bed or crate that is their own space, and that they know where it is always. Make the crate a happy place by leaving your pup's favorite toys in there and giving him treats while they are inside.
10. Ignore Attention Seeking Behaviors
Try not to return home immediately after they begin barking. This will only encourage more noise the next time
The best way to stop a frustrating behavior is to simply not reward it. If your dog barks, whines, or cries when you are leaving the house, it is because they want attention. Ignore them until they stops. This simple technique will get the job done every time if practiced diligently. The more you reinforce negative behaviors by showing that they get a response from you, the better your pooch will get at doing them.
If you are anxious or nervous, then your dog will pick up on those vibes and become anxious as well. The best way to avoid this is by practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, etc. Make it a point to do one of these exercises before leaving the house as it will keep your mind off things until you return home safely.
If your dog is kept outside, make sure the temperature is not too hot or cold when you are not home. If it is freezing out, then bring them inside to their comfortable crate. If it is unbearably sweltering outside, they need a comfy bed in the shade that will protect them from a heatstroke.
Do not leave snacks or water in cups around the house. Put them away in their appropriate place so your dog can not reach them, or purchase a mounted bowl/feeding station so that crumbs and spills are not everywhere.
Do not let your pup have free reign of the entire house when you are gone. They may find some things that are off limits and decide to chew or eat them, such as shoes, rugs, furniture, etc.
If you have a pool that you do not want your dog going in, consider putting up a fence or some other barrier that will prevent them from jumping/falling in. If only one of the sides is enclosed so they can run around freely on the opposite side, attaching a leash to a post with a muzzle may also be necessary for extra protection.
These work great for dogs who are anxious when their people are not home because they can snuggle with them instead of feeling alone. ensure they are filled with dog friendly stuffing. These toys will help boost their self esteem and provide comfort so that he does not chew up your shoes when you're away.
Do not forget to give your dog lots of love and attention when you first come home!
And whatever you do, don't lose hope. We have all been there before with our pups. Just remember the list above, in most cases will resolve the problem, but if it does not work, and things get really bad for your dog's separation anxiety, do not hesitate to seek professional assistance like a trainer, or try out medications for dogs with anxiety.
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