Whether an owner leaves for a brief or extended period of time, separation anxiety is a common issue that dog pet owners will most likely have to grapple with at some point. This is especially true if you are working from home and your children are participating in remote learning. A lot of houses are occupied more than usual nowadays so your dog may not have exhibited signs of separation anxiety at this time. However, this is something to be aware of now, because later on, when people are more active outside of the home, behavioral patterns may change and alter your dog’s sense of security.
Plan ahead so that you and your dog hit as few bumps in the road as possible. Below are a few tips to help your dog cope with separation anxiety:
Understand the Source of Your Dog’s Anxiety
Dogs are smart – When they see you reaching for your keys, putting on a coat, or packing a suitcase they assume that you must be leaving and may have an instant reaction. Pay attention to the activities that seem to trigger your puppy’s or dog’s anxiety. There are times when you may be grabbing your keys but are not planning on leaving the house. Therefore, teaching your puppy that certain actions may not mean that separation is imminent may alleviate your dog’s underlying qualms about being left alone.
Start with a Simple Routine
The main way to deal with separation anxiety is to train your puppy or dog to understand that separation is a part of daily life. When you’re leaving home, you are planning to come back, however your dog may be interpreting it as the possibility of abandonment. Therefore, one tactic is to establish a routine with your dog. For example, if you are planning on leaving, provide your dog with their favorite toy right before you leave the house. This approach is known as counterconditioning, which means that you are conditioning your dog’s negative response to a situation by rewards and an overall positive demeanor. Please note that this method may not work on all dogs. If your dog has a deeper level of anxiety, other more detailed methods may need to be put in place.
Prepare a Long-Term Plan
For a dog with more acute anxiety, exhibiting destructive or self-inflicted injuries, consult with your veterinarian or a board-certified animal behaviorist who may recommend anti-depression medication, and a long-term plan and training regimen. Instead of merely giving your dog a toy to play with before exiting the house, in this case you will need to start prepping your dog that you are leaving earlier on in the day so that he or she can get used to this idea.
After you leave the house, the amount of time away should start off with a short trip and then gradually become longer. By engaging in this kind of progress, your dog will not be immediately shocked by a departure, because they will have received clues that not only will it inevitably occur, but the time period away may vary.
Always Be Patient with Your Dog
It is always important to keep in mind that dog sitters and dog day care are viable options for a dog that cannot handle being alone. The most important issue with managing separation anxiety is to make sure you are practicing patience. If you aren’t patient with your dog, it will only exacerbate the anxiety that is already there. It may be a slow process of trial and error to find out what is best for your dog. You may quickly learn that your dog enjoys being in a crate or you may find out it will take months or weeks to ease your dog into the right schedule.
Here are some helpful links for managing separation anxiety in your dog:
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