Separation anxiety describes dogs that experience anxiety when their owners leave them alone. The anxiety can manifest as a wide-range of behaviors from whining and panting to destruction of doors or windows, or even self-mutilation. It can be distressing and frustrating to have an anxious dog, but with proper management and training, separation anxiety can be avoided and mild signs can be placated. To prevent separation anxiety from becoming a significant issue with your dog, here are several suggestions for you to start implementing now.

Low-Key Departures and Arrivals

During the 10-15 minutes before you leave the house, strive for a calm, neutral atmosphere. Avoid grand gestures of hugging, kissing, or petting with your dog. 

If your dog has previously shown any signs of anxiety over your departures, it may be best to simply ignore the dog during those last 10-15 minutes before you leave.

Similarly, when you arrive home, acknowledge your dog quietly if your dog is calm. If your dog is jumping on you, tearing around the house, whining or crying with excitement, or otherwise appears excited, ignore your dog until they have visibly settled down. Then, calmly greet your dog.

Long-Lasting Treats

Audition a variety of long-lasting treats or chews to find out what your dog will enjoy the most. You’ll want to experiment with these treats before you actually leave the dog home alone with them. If the dog doesn’t eat the treat when you are around, there is an excellent chance they won’t eat it when home alone either.

Some ideas for long-lasting treats include:

  • Knucklebones, Bully Sticks, or other ingestible and digestible chews
  • KONGs® or other food dispensing toys stuffed with kibble or treats, and sealed with peanut butter or banana mash, before freezing
  • Food dispensing toys: Tug-a-Jug®, Twist n’Treat, Squirrel Dude, The Buster Cube, The Tricky Treat Ball, The Atomic Treat Ball®, and the TreatStik®
  • Kibble or treats hidden in cardboard or paper products that your dog has to tear apart to get to the food: cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, paper bags, etc…

Practice Alone Time

Practicing being alone is important, especially for puppies. Identify a comfortable, safe area for your dog to be alone – in a room separated by a baby gate or in a crate (if crate trained). 

At least once a day, set your dog up in this area with a long-lasting treat, some of their favorite toys, a comfy bed, and some water. Start by only leaving them alone for very short periods of time, and you can vary between being completely alone and sitting nearby but not engaging.

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    Continue Reading

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