How To Deal With Your Dog's Separation Anxiet
Loud barking, chewed up shoes, peeing on the rug! Your dog's separation anxiety can be a huge problem and dog training takes time and patience. Our experts offer up their suggestions for helping train your dog to feel more comfortable while home alone.
Here’s the conversation …
Bernie: They follow us to the ends of this earth. They are our best friends.
Dr. Robyn: The dog should respond to your cues, not the other way around. I know dogs are really good at training their owners.
Chris: Today our question is going to be, "How do we handle our dog's separation anxiety?"
Hi, I am Chris Perondi, professional dog trainer from StuntDog.com. What is separation anxiety? It is basically when you leave your dog and your dog gives you some sort of negative or unwanted response from you leaving them. Some examples might be they start barking, they start whining, they start scratching at the door.
Bernie: Separation, dogs hate it. They follow us to the ends of this earth. They are our best friends, and so being pack animals, it is understandable why they don't want to be alone.
Dr. Robyn: Very difficult question. It takes a lot of work. First you need to desensitize it.
Chris: Desensitization, what is it, and what do I mean by desensitization? Well, we have to desensitize our dogs from being fearful of being left alone. The best way I can explain desensitization and training is, well, say you have a friend or a family member that's sort of scared of the dark. I guess this would be a best example. You get them in a room that is well lit, completely lit, and then you slowly start dimming the lights, dimming the lights, while you positively reward them with, I don't know, a pat on the back or something. But you positively reward them, make them feel comfortable, make them feel safe. Pretty soon you are going to be able to totally turn that light all the way off and they are going to be completely fine with being in the dark.
Bernie: This is an exercise that can help any dog that has separation anxiety. If you get a crate and you put your dog in the crate, leave the room for five minutes, come back and give him a treat, so that he associates that treat with your arrival. Do it again later on for about ten minutes, and do this over the course of several weeks, lengthening the time away, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, a half an hour, so that your dog knows that you are coming back and that your arrival is going to give them something great. They are going to get a treat.
Dr. Robyn: Treats are a great reward. Most dogs are pretty food motivated. So maybe when you leave, giving your dog a calm toy or another object stuffed with food that it really likes, but also takes a lot of time and energy to invest in and to get the reward.
Chris: Hey, good point, Dr. Robyn. I know I get pretty food motivated myself. But when we are talking about leaving our dogs and being separated from them and them getting anxious, one thing you might consider doing is establish a safety area for your dog. Meaning, like the area that they feel the most comfortable, they feel really safe, and that area is typically going to be an area where they sleep at night, maybe where they eat and they play. It's kind of like their safety zone.
Bernie: Many people ask if they should get another dog to help with their current dog's separation anxiety, and well, that can be a mixed bag, because you never really know, if you are adopting a dog, how they are going to react to each other. So I guess my advice would be, if you have friends, if you have other dogs that you know, ask to borrow their dog for the day and see how that works.
Dr. Robyn: Provide your dog with independence training. For example, not giving an attention when it demands it, waiting until it is in a set position before you give it attention. The dog should respond to your cues, not the other way around. I know dogs are really good at training their owners. Also changing the predictive value of any pre-departure cues, so if every time you get ready to leave, you pick up your keys from a certain basket, and you put your coat on and you put your shoes on at the door, vary those cues. Pick up your keys throughout the day and put them back down so the dog doesn't sense and doesn't use that as a trigger.
Bernie: Another great thing that you can do for the anxious dog, take him for a walk right before you leave, a long walk, a walk that is going to tire them out and they are going to be like, "Ooh, I need a break, so I am going to take a nap and when they get back, my owner is going to come home, yea!" I know I am being silly, but you know these are the things that can make us happy about dealing with this situation and a problem instead of being aggravated about it. So take them for a walk. You will get some exercise yourself. It is a win-win situation for all.
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Bernie: What could be better than that?
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