Pet owners can help ease their dogs’ separation anxiety through some training exercises. Submitted
Dogs are social animals, and by nature, donâ€™t usually like being alone. Many dogs adjust to their family being gone all day, but others have a harder time.
If a dog is destructive when left alone, itâ€™s important to determine if he is just bored or if he is suffering from separation anxiety. If heâ€™s just bored, there are easy fixes for that. If he is truly stressed, itâ€™s time to get him some help.
Separation anxiety is the distress experienced by a dog when separated from his family. It typically manifests within 30 minutes of being left alone. It results in destructive behavior such as barking, chewing, digging and even urination and defecation. In severe cases, a dog may try to escape, causing damage to the home and harm to the dog.
Separation anxiety can be the result of a sudden change in routine, such as moving to a different home, a new schedule, or a new person in the home. Some health conditions could cause similar behaviors, like inappropriate urination, so itâ€™s important to see your veterinarian first to rule out any medical problems.
If you are able, start by consulting with a behavior specialist. They can work with you to set up a training plan to help relieve your dogâ€™s anxiety and keep him safe. For dogs with severe anxiety, this is essential.
If you donâ€™t have access to a behavior specialist, there are things you can do on your own. The idea is to desensitize your dog to being alone.
Practice leaving without going out the door. Put on your shoes, get your keys and walk to the door. Do that several times a day and give your dog a treat every time he remains calm.
Make the experience of coming or going as unexciting as possible. No hugs and kisses, no long good-byes, no petting. As you leave, give your dog a treat, say a simple â€śIâ€™ll be backâ€ť and walk out. The treat helps associate your leaving with a good thing.
When you return, be just as calm. Donâ€™t acknowledge the dog until youâ€™ve put your things away and can calmly say hello. Do this every time you leave and every time you come home.
Another exercise is to go into a closet, close the door and wait for a minute. If your dog is calm, increase the time to two minutes, then three minutes. If three minutes is too much, go back to two minutes. Once your dog is comfortable with five minutes, do the same thing going out the front door.
These are just a few of the simple things you can try to help with your dogâ€™s anxiety. You can find more resources online at aspca.org or bestfriends.org.