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Tips for Dealing With Separation Anxiety In Dogs

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One of the things we love about dogs is just how much they love us back. But what happens when that love becomes ‘too much’, and they can’t bear to be without you? Separation anxiety is an incredibly common condition in dogs, that can cause a lot of stress for both your furry friend, and you (living in constant fear of what might happen if you leave your pet alone is not a way to live).

However with a little time and effort the effects of separation anxiety can be reduced, and in some cases, eliminated together.

Rule out other problems:

Dogs relieving themselves indoors is a common sign of separation anxiety, but it can also signal medical problems. The easiest way to find out what the problem is, is to film your dog while you’re away. If the mess is accompanied by barking, crying, pacing, and other symptoms of distress, separation anxiety is the cause. If your dog appears otherwise relaxed, take them to the vets.

A tired dog is a happy dog:

A lack of exercise will drastically worsen the symptoms of separation anxiety. If you’ve been lacking in the walking department lately, be sure to take your dog out for a lengthy walk before they’re left alone. The more worn out they are, the less energy they will have to burn by getting stressed.

Change your routine:

Dogs know when we’re about to leave, and it’s at the first sign of our leaving that dogs with separation anxiety will begin to get stressed. So, instead of putting your shoes and coat on, and then leaving, put your shoes and coat on, and stay inside. Once your dog learns that this routine doesn’t necessarily mean you’re leaving, they will be much more relaxed in the run up to your departure.

Don’t fuss:

A big mistake many owners make is fussing their dog when they start to get stressed, thinking it will make them feel better. All this does is reinforce the stressed behaviour as correct.

The same rules apply upon your return; a dog that’s overly happy to see you when you get home isn’t necessarily a happy dog.

Ignore your dog when you leave, and when you return, ignore them until they calm down. This should teach them that being relaxed gets them a fuss and is therefore the correct behaviour.

Have ‘practice’ absences:

If you always go out for hours on end, try leaving for just a few minutes. Like above, upon your return don’t make a fuss of them until they have calmed down.

Don’t punish them:

If your dog causes a mess while you are away, they haven’t done it annoy you. They are incredibly stressed and are relieving it in the only way they know how. Punishing them will only make them more fearful and more likely to repeat the destructive behaviour in future.

Keep them occupied:

The more your dog has to do while you’re away, the less stressed they will be, and the less likely they are to take out their stress on your house. Try a food dispensing toy like a Kong or a treat ball to keep them entertained and their mind off your absence.

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Written by Sarah; crazy dog lover and contributor to Campaign for Real Dog Food. Sarah volunteers in a rescue centre and is passionate about dog care and training.