Separation Anxiety Special
You can help to prevent separation anxiety by getting your dog accustomed to being alone from an early age, starting with just a few minutes at a time,. Then you can gradually build up to several hours. However, you should never leave your dog alone for an entire day..
If you regularly leave your home for prolonged periods, then arrange for a dog sitter to come and keep him company. Dogs that are unaccustomed to being left alone from an early age sometimes go on to develop separation anxiety. It’s therefor very important to recognise the symptoms and address the root cause.
Recognise the symptoms;
Barking, destroying furniture, pacing and peeing in the home are typical symptoms of anxiety. As are your dog’s refusal to eat or drink when alone, or his excessive excitement and hyperactivity upon your return. Sometimes a well-behaved dog will then suddenly exhibit destructive behaviour or signs of stress when alone. This can indicate separation anxiety and must therefore be addressed – it’s important to note that this type of behaviour is never intended to be 'bothersome'. So, whatever you do, don’t punish your dog for his actions. Instead he needs reassurance.
Whilst building alone time is important, the key to success when it comes to separation anxiety is more complicated. Dogs that suffer from severe separation anxiety tend to lack self-confidence. This might be the result of a traumatic experience, especially if he is a rescue animal. Therefore rebuild his trust is essential. They need to feel reassured that they are living in a warm 'nest' with a 'pack' who doesn’t abandon them.
Ensure your dog is content before intending to leave him alone. Going for a long walk with plenty of play involved will expend any excess energy that may fuel anxiety later. Only leave your home once your dog is back home calm, comfortable and relaxed again.
How’s your behaviour?
Grabbing your keys, dashing from one room to the next: You are likely exhibiting specific behavioural patterns your dog is picking up on when preparing to leave your home – especially if you are rushed and rushing. Your dog immediately thinks: “My pack leader is leaving, help!” So, when preparing to leave, try performing the same tasks in a mindful relaxed manner and even re-enact the same exercises when you do not intend to leave the house to ease his associations: Grab your keys, put your coat on and then; simply stay at home. If you disassociate your behaviour from your dog’s separation anxiety, his panic around your leaving will start to diminish.
Getting him accustomed to being alone
Dogs with severe separation anxiety must get used to your absences gradually. Disappear for short bursts throughout the day; starting by going into another room and then returning after a few minutes. Reward your dog with a treat if he remains calm and relaxed. Keep repeating this until you actually leave your house for a short period. If your dog finds this too stressful, stop and begin the process again in a few days. He must learn being alone is nothing to fear and have trust you will soon be back and accept this calmly.