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Dog Separation Anxiety

sf dog training separation anxiety

Dogs often get distressed when left alone.  Sometimes they bark when tied up outside, some freak out in the car, some tear up the house when you’re gone.  In worst cases, dogs cause damage to themselves by trying to break out of a kennel or house.   Dogs can gnaw at cages until their teeth break and gums bleed, scratch at doors until their paw pads are worn out, or even break through glass to get outside.  No matter how severe your issue, rest assured that there is hope that your dog can learn to be calm & happy alone.

What is separation anxiety?

First, it’s important to realize that the destruction and house soiling that often occur with separation anxiety are part of a panic response. Your dog isn’t trying to “punish” you for leaving him alone.  He simply has not learned how to be alone.  So, when he is alone, he gets so anxious that he acts in some way that is not his typical behavior.

Mild reactions such as a little barking or an occasional chewed up shoe aren’t too much to worry about, and can usually be overcome quickly.  If your dog is causing damage to himself or your property, please get help from a behaviorist as soon as possible.  Call SF Dog Connect…  We’re here to help!!

Some helpful tips:

- Don’t make a big deal out of leaving or returning.

When you feel bad/guilty about leaving, it lets your dog know something is “wrong.”  Then, when you come back and act all excited and happy, you’re telling him “Thank God!  It’s over!”   By staying calm when you leave and not making a big deal out of it, he’ll remain more calm as well.  Teaching him to sit calmly to pet when you return helps him focus on a good job to learn (sit to pet), as well as allows him to calm down more quickly.

- Practice leaving

Puppies and new dogs need to learn right away that you won’t always be there, but you will return.  Leaving them in another room for a few minutes at a time, or with a friend when you go into a store are good ways to let him see that you go away sometimes, but you always come back.  Dogs need to learn just as children do that they are not being abandoned.  For dogs that get anxious when you start to leave, you can practice pretending to leave to desensitize them to it.  You can get up, put your shoes on, grab your car keys, and then go sit down.  By practicing these things, the triggers will lose their intensity and he will be much less stressed.

- A tired dog is a good dog

Often we are rushed in the morning and just get our dogs out for a quick potty break, feed them, and take off.  But your dog just slept all night…  what’s he supposed to do with all of his time & energy now?  He can’t read a book or go for a walk alone.  So, his stress level goes up.  By taking your dog for a good long walk and/or to the park for some playtime before leaving him alone, you give him a chance to get rid of some energy that might otherwise be used to tear up your couch.  Once he’s tired out, then it’s easier for him to remain calm and sleep throughout the day.

Need more help with dog separation anxiety?

Please contact SF Dog Connect.   With some practice and patience, you and your dog can be stress free!