Does your dog have separation anxiety? You should consult your vet about this behavior, but there are also some things you can do at home to help your dog with this problem.
How to Modify Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety Using Behavior Modification Techniques
By Kristi Patrice Carter
Separation anxiety is a condition that affects millions of dogs around the globe. It is a condition that causes intense anxiety, fear, and nervousness when the dog is separated from their human companions or pack leaders. As a result, many dogs with separation anxiety attempt to relieve their anxiety by digging, escaping, self mutilating, chewing, barking, or excessively whining.
In order to help your dog overcome dog separation anxiety, you will have to retrain him to deal with the anxious feelings that he experiences while you’re gone. For some dogs, medication may be needed, but for others behavior modification is best. In this article, we’ll discuss the fundamentals of behavior modification as a way to counter condition your dog’s negative behavior and recondition him to not feel stressed and anxious upon your absence.
1. First of all, you must understand that separation anxiety is a medical condition that only gets worse with time. It is not something that you can ignore. Therefore, if your dog is experiencing the symptoms of dog separation anxiety, you should take him to the veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian will do a complete health exam and offer tips and possibly medication to assist him.
2. Second, don’t escalate the problem. This means that you must make a commitment to not spoil your dog. That is, you can’t enable his condition by giving him your undivided attention when you’re home. This just teaches him that your life revolves around his. For instance, if your dog follows you around all the time, then don’t let him. Encourage him to have his own interests and to play by himself. Give him accolades when he plays independently.
3. Third, engage in basic obedience training. That is, you must be careful not to respond to all his demands for attention and to only give him attention when you’re ready to give it to him. For instance, if your dog jumps on you for cuddles, gently push him away without making eye contact. Then when you’re ready for cuddles, you should do so on your own time. You can call him over to you and offer him your attention. Another example is if he constantly barks and whines, ignore him. This will demonstrate that you’re the “leader of the pack” and that negative behavior will not be tolerated.
4. Fourth, give your dog plenty of exercise every single day. Exercising him for about 15 minutes a day (especially before you get ready to leave) will inevitably tire him out and cause him to feel more relaxed and less stressed. After all, a tired dog is often a calmer one.
5. Fifth, in addition to not spoiling your dog, you should prepare him for departures. That is, most dogs experience separation anxiety quite intensely as soon as you leave home, so you should start paying less attention to him about 20 minutes before you leave. This will help you distance yourself from him and mentally prepare him for your departure. Another option is ignore him for 6-8 hours when you’re at home. This teaches him how to handle being alone and encourages him to entertain himself.
6. Lastly, you can try the following:
a. Only give him free access to a smaller part of the house and then extend that time as you notice a positive behavior change. Another suggestion is to use a crate when you’re away which can help him feel less anxious. The only exception to this is if a crate makes him feel more anxious. In that case, a baby gate may work better.
b. Give him some special treats when you leave. Most dogs love natural sterilized bones or a special squeaky toy. Another option is to make him a buried treasure box full of toys.
c. Put on tape recording of yourself talking, but make sure that you play the same tape when you’re at home, as well.
d. Dog proof the house. You should cover electrical cords, close toilets, doors, cabinets, etc. In addition, you can spray items with a terrible tasting spray like bitter apple to keep him from chewing on it when you’re gone.
In conclusion, dog separation anxiety is a condition that affects many dogs. By engaging in a behavior modification program, you can retrain your dog’s negative behavior and teach him to enjoy being alone. Although it may take some time, the key is to not give up on your dog. But be patient and believe that he can and will get better with time!
Is your dog traumatized when you leave him alone? Don’t get mad or frustrated. He may be suffering from dog separation anxiety. Learn proven and humane tips to help him overcome dog separation anxiety once and for all!