Does your dog appear stressed when you leave? Do you observe destructive and disruptive behaviors such as excessive barking, whining, destroying items, scratching, and salivation?
If yes, your dog may be experiencing separation anxiety. When you’re raising a dog, there is a wide range of behavioral issues that you may encounter, and this is one of the most common ones.
In this article, we will look deeper into what separation anxiety in dogs is and if dog training can help alleviate this.
What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, separation anxiety occurs when your dog shows signs of extreme stress from the time you leave until you return. While separation anxiety in dogs may manifest in different ways, it will generally act terrified to be left alone.
According to a zoologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Particia McConnell, Ph.D. in her booklet I’ll Be Home Soon, although we can’t know exactly what’s on our dog’s mind, separation anxiety in dogs can be considered as the equivalent of a panic attack.
It is not the same as the occasional whimper when you leave your dog or a minor mischief such as the shredded roll of toilet paper waiting for you upon your return. It is a more serious condition.
Some of the signs of separation anxiety in dogs include the following:
- Signs of anxiety such as trembling, pacing, or whining while you’re preparing to leave of gone
- Excessive howling and/or barking
- Destructive chewing or scratching on the doors, floor, or windows
- Urinating or defecating anywhere in the house
- Excessive panting and drooling
- Desperate attempts to break free from confinement, which may sometimes even cause injury
If your dog is showing just one or two of these symptoms, it may not be a sign of separation anxiety. However, if it shows multiple symptoms regularly, it is most likely to be suffering from this condition.
Now, the good news is that you can help your dog beat separation anxiety through dog training, socialization, crate training, and generally teaching your dog how to enjoy its alone time.
Ways Dog Training Can Treat Separation Anxiety
We understand how frustrating and exhausting it is to come home to destruction and your dog in distress. Fortunately, there are several actions you can take to deal with separation anxiety.
Regardless of the method of treatment, they all boil down to teaching your dog how to tolerate or even enjoy being left alone. Once you’ve successfully achieved this, you can consider the underlying anxiety to be resolved or reduced.
Desensitization and Counterconditioning
If you want your dog to become more mentally and physically healthy is by teaching it to be more comfortable in the world around it. Help your dog form positive associations with new experiences, including its time away from you.
You can actually condition your dog to believe that separation also has its rewards. Simply start by leaving it for very short periods of time and then increase the amount of time gradually. If it’s already conditioned to switch into stress mode when you’re leaving, you can counter the natural reaction through a high-value treat that your dog truly enjoys.
Also, you can make your departure less stressful for your pet by desensitizing it to the signs you’re about to leave. For instance, you can pick up your keys and wear your jacket, and then proceed to make dinner instead of going out. You can also give your dog a treat right before you get your keys or jacket. When successfully done, your dog might even look forward to you leaving instead of panicking!
A crate is your dog’s friend and your partner in addressing your dog’s behavioral issues. It is an effective training tool if used correctly, and can give your dog its own secured and safe space to relax.
Now, the most important thing in crate training is teaching your dog to associate the crate with positive things such as food-releasing puzzle toys or chew toys. In this way, your dog will be happy to spend time inside the crate.
So how does this fit in the context of separation anxiety in dogs?
It’s simple– some dogs feel more comfortable and safer inside the crate when left alone. However, it’s important to note that there are also others that may panic.
So the best way to determine if this will work is to observe your dog’s behavior and see if it relaxes or the symptoms increase further. Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s not recommended to keep your dog inside the crate for the whole day on a daily basis. The purpose of crate training is to keep your dog safe and your house in excellent condition while you teach it to enjoy its time alone with its toys or simply chilling out.
It’s important to note that these dog training strategies require you to dedicate your time and effort to be effective. A more practical alternative is to hire a professional dog trainer such as Delaware K9 Academy. Aside from being more convenient, you’ll also notice that your dog will become more well-behaved and well-trained at a relatively shorter period of time compared to doing the training on your own.
Living with a dog that has separation anxiety can be challenging. However, separation anxiety is not just difficult for you, but most especially for your dog.
Good thing, through patience, a positive attitude, and the right dog trainer to partner with, you will surely be able to address this problem. So if you’re looking for the most reliable trainers who can help your dog, get in touch with Delaware K9 Academy today and let us discuss your different dog training options.