Separation anxiety in dogs can be found as the root cause in many behavioral problems with your canine pet. When you get set to leave the house, even for just a little while, your dog begins to bark or whine. In worse cases, she howls, or chews up the nice furniture or forgets where her bathroom is and goes anywhere. At first glance, these behavioral issues appear to be the mark of a dog that is behaving badly. But before you go condemning your little pooch, you should consider the possibility that your dog, like millions of other dogs the world over, is suffering from what the medical profession has coined as dog separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety in dogs? What is that?
As its title implies, separation anxiety in dogs is simply where your dog becomes nervous and afraid when it knows you are not around. It goes back to their pack instincts, as when the leader of the pack has left members of the pack on their own. Your dog views your family has her pack, and you as the leader, so when you leave the house, the dog has an anxiety episode.
Dogs will attempt to relieve this anxiety in many different ways. Some prefer digging numerous holes if they are left in the backyard. Others will choose self-mutilation or chewing, and still others will take up barking or whining nonstop. The hardest part of treating separation anxiety in dogs is knowing about it. As it only occurs when you are away from the house, you may not realize your dog is suffering from this problem. However, once you know that the problem does exist, there is a fairly straight forward way to cure your dog of her separation anxiety. It all comes down to teaching your dog that she is safe when she is alone.
Obviously, medication is not needed to train your dog to be cool when she is alone. Neither is physical punishment. Your dog is suffering from a psychological condition, so hitting her to cure her is not necessary. In fact, this would, in most instances, cause the problem to become worse. She needs to learn how to overcome anxious feelings, not be punished for having them.
Another thing you should not do once you become aware of the problem, is to ignore it. Like most problems, they will not just go away. They must be faced head on and dealt with in a patient and loving manner. If you wait once you become aware of the problem, it will get worse as your dog gets older. Start training her immediately once you know she suffers from separation anxiety and you will relieve yourself of a great deal of anxiety in you that would happen over time should you pretend the problem will vanish on its own.
To begin training your dog to overcome separation anxiety, you have to consider several factors, including your dog’s age, breed, tolerance level, and motivation, and determine her level of anxiety. As stated before, medication is not necessary, but if the condition is extreme, starting with medication during the beginning of training might be a good idea until your dog can get a better handle on her situation.
The best thing to start with is to not coddle her when you are home. That is, get her to play by herself quite a bit while you are around. This will help lessen her dependence on you. Also, when you do have to go out, don’t make such a big production out of it. Something as simple as giving her a treat on your way out, a kind word or two then out the door you go, should be sufficient to show her that you leaving is no big thing. Same thing for returning home. Keep it laid back as well. She’ll get the hint that your leaving is nothing major, and she will get used to this over a short time.