4 Steps to Fix Separation Anxiety

Hasn’t it been nice to be at home with your pup all day, everyday during this pandemic? I know my cat has loved having all of the extra attention with my husband working from home! The most common reason that a dog will begin to have separation anxiety is from a change in schedule- like when you return to the office. However, it can also be triggered by a move to a new home or an addition to the family. 

The most common signs of separation anxiety are:

  • Barking and howling
  • Urinating and defecating inappropriately (aka indoors even though they are completely potty trained)
  • Chewing, digging, general destruction
  • Pacing
  • Escaping
  • Coprophagia (eating their own feces)

 

Before moving onto any of the next steps in how to deal with separation anxiety in your pup, it is important to rule out any medical issues. Incontinence can be caused by medical issues or some medications, and so if your pup is exhibiting urinating or defecating issues, be sure to speak to your vet before moving onto any behavior modifications. It is also important to note whether or not your pup is fully potty trained. If they are still having accidents when you are home, potty training may not be complete.  

Also, consider your pup’s age, and threshold for boredom when it comes to chewing and digging. Puppies who are teething are likely to chew and cause destruction simply because they are teething. Some dogs chew out of boredom, and not from separation anxiety. Be sure to provide enough appropriate chew toys to puppies and power chewers to prevent any unwanted destruction!

4 easy steps you can take to ease your pup’s separation anxiety

  • Practice leaving, without really leaving

Dogs understand that when we pick up our keys/wallet/purse, or put on our socks and shoes or jacket, that this usually means we are leaving. Help your pup to realize that this isn’t a bad thing by randomly picking up these things, carrying them around the house, and then giving your pup attention and putting the items back, without ever leaving. Do this several times throughout the day, for several days to really change your pup’s anxiety towards these items. 

  • Don’t make a big deal about coming and going

We often will talk to our pups, “Ok sweetie, I’ll be back soon, be a good dog!” and so on, making a big deal about going out. This makes us feel good, but actually has a bad effect on our dogs. When you leave, do so quietly and calmly. Don’t make a big deal about it. When you return home, and immediately give them attention even when they are excited and not behaving calmly, we are reinforcing anxious behaviors. Help your pup realize that being calm is a rewarding behavior by ignoring them until they settle down. Reward calm behavior with attention and petting.

  • Give them a treat or bone just before you leave. 

Make your departure a positive experience by giving them a bone or kong to chew on when you are away. Check out our video on an easy kong filler here. Be sure to choose a bone that is safe for them to work on unattended. Another great option is puzzle toys. You can find many varieties online with a quick search for “puzzle toys for dogs”. These are great because they provide a challenge and reward, which is wonderful mental stimulation. Try filling these with high value treats such as tiny pieces of hot dogs, boiled chicken, steak, or bacon. 

  • Incrementally increase the time you are away

Start by leaving for just a few seconds several times each day. Come back in and remember to practice number 2! Slowly increase the amount of time that you are gone each time you leave. This might be leaving for 5 minutes to take a quick walk down the street, and then next time 10 minutes. Be sure to practice this often, so that your dog learns that you ALWAYS come back no matter the length of time you are gone. 

If you find you still need help in managing your pup’s separation anxiety, contact us! Exercise and attention from a dog walker is also a great way to lower your pup’s anxiety and we would love to help! 

Posted by
shar

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