Dogs separation anxiety is one of the most frustrating behavioural problems to encounter as a pet owner. Not only does the dogs separation anxiety cause emotional distress to dog and human, but can also result in thousands of pounds worth of damage to the home. The good news is that with a little bit of patience, love, and the proper tools, the dogs separation anxiety can be overcome.
Certain breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others. Typically (but not always) these are companion-bred breeds that feel their job is to maintain contact with their humans. Chinese Crested Dogs, Shih Tzus, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terriers all commonly suffer from dogs separation anxiety. Dogs that have suffered from traumatic or abusive pasts may also have separation anxiety, especially those who have come from an animal shelter. In other instances, dogs that become bored very easily and have high exercise requirements, such as Shiba Inus or Siberian Huskies, can also display their dogs separation anxiety-type behavior.
The first step in treating the dogs separation anxiety is to rule out that your dog may simply be experiencing boredom when you are not at home. This is especially common among dogs who are not receiving adequate exercise. Before you leave for an extended period of time, try taking your dog for a longer-than-normal walk or run. Tiring out your pup can ensure that he or she will sleep while you are away and avoid trying to turn your living room into an obstacle course.
If your dog does indeed suffer from true dogs separation anxiety, the first treatment method is to reassociate your absence from something negative into something positive. Whenever you leave, give your dog an extra special treat that he or she only receives while you are gone. This should be an item that keeps your dog busy, such as a peanut butter filled KONG or other interactive toy. Your dog will quickly come to look forward to your absence as a time to busy him or herself with this special item instead of worry that you will never return.
Another step you can take in rehabilitating your dogs separation anxiety is to practice your routine multiple times to confuse your dog’s perceptions of your absence. The first step is to start your pre-work routine in a similar manner as you normally would. This can include turning on the hair dryer, making coffee, and putting on your work shirt. Follow every step up until you place your hand on the door handle. If your dog has bad separation anxiety, he or she will begin to become anxious during these steps. Then, instead of turning the door handle, simply return to the couch and turn on the tv to signal to your dog that you are not going anywhere. Next, repeat the process but step outside and immediately go back inside. The next time, go into the kitchen and make a snack instead of walking out the door. After that, walk out to the car/bus stop and return. By confusing your dog as to your routine, you can decouple the dogs separation anxiety that is produced when you leave and also help him or her understand that you always return.