Dog separation anxiety may seem like a ‘cute’ problem at first, but after a while it can become a real annoyance – especially if your dog is obviously very distressed every time you leave the house, or even just the room.
So here are a few tips to help you deal with the problem. Separation anxiety is not something that goes away over night, but if you’re patient and focus on dealing with the problem slowly by small degrees, you should start seeing significant improvements within a few weeks.
Make Leaving No Big Deal
The first step in treating separation anxiety in dogs is to simply make your departure a non-event, every time. Many dog owners try to combat separation anxiety by reassuring their dog and giving her lots of attention before they leave the house – this is exactly the opposite of what you want to do!
When you give her lots of reassurance and attention, then you’re suddenly gone, it creates a strong contrast that can make the anxiety even more intense.
You want to eliminate this contrast by completely ignoring your dog for 15 minutes before you leave the house.
If you don’t even look at your dog or say a word to her for 15 minutes before you leave, the experience of you leaving won’t be quite such a sharp and sudden shock.
Likewise, don’t make a big deal about coming home. Again, most dog owners walk in the door talking excitedly and immediately shower their dog with attention – don’t, for the same reason. It creates a strong contrast between you not being there, and you suddenly arriving home. When you get home, simply walk in and ignore the dog for 10 minutes until she is calm and composed, then greet her quietly.
Use the Crate
Crate training is a great tool for combating anxiety in a dog. When trained properly, the crate becomes a safe refuge in which the dog will be comfortable even when you’re not around. As long as you train your dog to get used to the crate, it’s not cruel to leave her in there when you’re out of the house – she will see it as her ‘den’ and it will help stop her from feeling the fear of being left alone, because she knows she’s safe in it.
Practice Leaving and Returning
One useful technique most dog owners never consider is to actually do practice runs of leaving the house and then coming back.
This helps create a loop in your dog’s mind that lets her know you’re not abandoning her – every time you leave the house, you always come back.
The process for this is simple enough – just leave the house, wait 30 seconds, then come back in. Repeat this 3 to 5 times. Do a few sessions like this a day and combine it with the other tips here and you should soon she some improvement in your dog’s anxiety.