(Article by Tina Thurston, Trainer at By Your Side)
It is exciting to bring your dog home for the first time, especially if it is a brand new puppy. But a common mistake many new pet owners make is wanting to take their new dog everywhere– whether it’s going on errands, visiting friends, or even moving from room to room. This causes problems because when the time comes when Fido isn’t allowed to join in the activities, he isn’t going to know what to make of being alone. Not allowing your dog to experience being on his own can contribute to separation anxiety.
To begin helping your dog, you first need to figure out if they do, in fact, have separation anxiety. Many owners will think their dog has separation anxiety because they hear them barking, when in reality, this often occurs because they are bored and are trying to entertain themselves.
Make sure you are giving your dog plenty of exercise every day, and give them something to keep them occupied while you are away, such as a bone or a Kong with peanut butter. Though barking is often a sign of boredom, barking can also be a factor for separation anxiety. Another sign of anxiety is pacing and drooling while you are going through your routine of getting ready to leave. Dogs are smart. They know you are planning to leave.
Lastly, there are signs to look for when you return home. If you see diarrhea (every time), and/or evidence of them hurting themselves, (i.e. raw feet from excessive licking, bloody gums from trying to get out of the crate, or bloody paws from scratching at a door) these are strong indications that your dog may be experiencing separation anxiety.
As a trainer at By Your Side Dog Training, I always recommend crate training your dog, even if you don’t plan to use a crate every day in the future. Dogs like having their own safe place to curl up. It can also be beneficial for a number of other situations down the road.
Below are some starter points to help you work with your dog if they have separation anxiety:
- 1. Make sure they have had sufficient exercise before you leave them. This is also key to keeping your dog from destroying the house while you are away.
- 2. Give the dog a treat or toy to keep them distracted. They will start to associate you leaving with them getting a reward of some sort. Therefore, you leaving can be thought of as a positive experience.
Getting your dog used to being in a different room than you
Put your pup in the crate in the same room as you for small amounts of time each day. Reward your pup if they are quiet. Gradually extend the amount of time your dog stays in the crate. Later on, leave the room for a minute and then come back. Continue working in this way, slowly extending the amount of time you are gone from the room.
Helping your dog get used to you leaving the house
The goal in overcoming separation anxiety is to desensitize your dog to the act of you leaving. Do the behaviours you would when you are getting ready to leave, but do them away from the door. For example, you could put your shoes on, and then take them off again. Keep repeating until your pup stops noticing these actions. Next, you should start going out the door and then come back in. Your dog should be distracted with their toy or treat and calm while you are gone. Gradually increase the amount of time you are gone for.
When you leave: do not make a big deal about it – leave quietly and with confidence. Despite your best intentions, babying voices don’t help.
When you come back: do not make a big deal about it – this will avoid crazy excitement at the door.
Separation Anxiety can be overcome with time, patience, and careful training. The number one step is exercise! Obedience training is also highly recommended to help build any dog’s confidence.
For more information, please seek the help of a professional dog trainer. By Your Side Dog Training wants to help you help your dog, so they can be a happy, healthy pet. For more information about Tina Thurston and By Your Side Dog Training, please visit www.byyoursidedogs.com