Recently, your dog has been barking and whining anytime you leave the house. When you return, it looks like he has thrown a house party; there are scratches all over your walls and doors, and your new throw pillow has been completely gutted. Anytime you put them in their crate, they try everything in their power to escape. You have been working longer hours so you suspect that it might be separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a common problem among our furry friends, but in order to decide on the best course of action, you need to know whether it is true separation anxiety or just simulated separation anxiety.
In true separation anxiety, your precious pet is experiencing real stress when you leave them, and demonstrates behaviors associated with separation anxiety because that is how they cope. In simulated separation anxiety, your dog has learned that the behaviors of separation anxiety get them attention. They have found that when they behave badly, you will reprimand them, which rewards the behavior because they feel noticed. This happens when the dog isn’t having certain needs met from their owner. Simulated separation anxiety is relatively easy to overcome because it is a behavioral issue, not a psychological one. Increasing crate time, getting them the proper amount of exercise, and obedience training goes far in eliminating these behaviors.
However, true separation anxiety isn’t as easy to solve. You can address this issue that is stressful for you and your pup by determining the cause of their anxiety.
You may be unwittingly encouraging your dog’s separation anxiety. If you make a big deal anytime you leave or return to your home, it rewards the dog for being anxious about our absence, which makes them more stressed out every time you leave. After your pup has bonded with you, they do not just want to be near you; they NEED to be. You are their pack, and they need you to feel secure and confident. Therefore, when they suddenly do not have you as much, such as when your routine changes, this can cause your dog to experience separation anxiety. Also consider whether or not your dog is bored now that you aren’t home as often, or isn’t getting enough exercise. Try adding an additional walk or more time playing fetch in the yard to you and your dog’s routine, and this might help the behavior.
A key part of addressing separation anxiety is to be confident. You are the source of your dog’s confidence and security, and you need to foster a relationship with them that encourages this. This means that you need to lead your dog, and not present yourself as stressed out about their anxiety, which just has a compounding effect for both of you. Confidently leave your home and come back as you always do, and your dog will come to trust you to always return.
If your dog is not experiencing separation anxiety, but you anticipate that he might soon, there are certain preventative steps you can take now to help your best friend. While you might be tempted to get some anxiety medication from your vet to give to your dog when you know you will be gone for a long time, this is not a cure to the problem, and generally isn’t that effective at calming your canine. You need to treat the root cause of the problem to have a positive impact.
Training your dog to prevent separation anxiety starts from the moment you adopt your sweet furry friend as a puppy. As a puppy, being taken from their mother is a big traumatic event their life. They may cry, and when you pick them up for comfort, they learn that crying is how to get attention. From the beginning, reward your pup for being calm and patient. Don’t constantly try to interact with and entertain your dog; allow them to play with their own toys so they don’t always need your attention. Reward desired behavior, be consistent, and crate train your dog, and you have a much better chance of them never developing separation anxiety.
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