Dog Training Tips: You Dog’s Separation Anxiety and How to Handle It – How to Train Your Dog Part 1
Some of you might be surprised to hear this but dogs do experience separation anxiety as well. Separation anxiety is exhibited in dogs in various ways. Some of them literally go berserk when the owner leaves; barking, howling, whining, or start tearing at furniture. Additionally, one may find that the dog forgets all their house training as well. Pooping on the floor? Yes. Peeing on the floor? Yes. Some people might think that the dog is just misbehaving, but separation anxiety might be the reason.
So what is separation anxiety anyway?
Separation anxiety is actually a disorder. It causes the dog to panic when it is left alone at home and this anxiety actually occurs in 15% of the doggo population. When anxiety sets in, the panic becomes overwhelming, and the dog takes to barking and destroying the home, and may even have accidents with urine and poop. The relief they feel when the owner comes back home can be felt in their frantic greetings at the door. This becomes a stressful condition for both the owners and their dogs, especially if obedience training proves ineffective.
One should not despair, however, since there are ways to help both the dogs and their owners. One of the methods used quite successfully to reduce the dog’s anxiety is systemic desensitization. This method involves working with the dog and gradually training it to be left home by itself. Here is further information on separation anxiety and how to overcome it.
Is it Separation Anxiety or Boredom?
This is a question that must be answered because many times people confuse the two. The reason for this is that they are both accompanied by behavioral problems that includes lots of barking and destructive chewing.
If you dog is making a mess or being disobedient when you leave him home alone, it might not be him taking revenge on you. He might just be terrified of being alone.
In order to distinguish between the two, one needs to increase the amount of mental stimulation and exercise the dog gets. This means going for an additional walk, playing fetch, increasing the number of toys the dog has or putting the dog through an obedience class. If these work, then the dog was only suffering boredom. In the event that none of these work, it will be time to do some of the following, since the issue may be separation anxiety.
Changing the Dog’s Behavior
Interestingly, changing the dog’s behavior starts with changing the behavior of the dog owner. Most people have a morning routine that they follow on a daily basis. What they don’t realize is that the dog recognizes this pattern and once it has been mastered, the dog’s level of anxiety begins to build when they begin their routine. The anxiety starts building when the alarm goes off, and continues as the person gets ready until the dog panics completely. By the time the owner is leaving, the dog is in a complete panic.
By changing the routine, one is able to prevent this anxiety from building. By taking note of what one does as they prepare to head out, they can begin doing most of these things at random times of the day. Some examples include showering at random times of the day when one is home, taking the car keys, putting them in the pocket and then sitting down and catching a movie instead of going out. With time, the dog will stop associating those things with the owner leaving the house. As such, the dog’s anxiety will begin to reduce with time.
Don’t Make A Fuss About Leaving Or Coming Home (Ignore Them For A Few Minutes)
One of the mistakes that dog owners make is to lavish the dog with lots of attention and affection when they are about to head out the door, or when they come home. Picture the owners coming home, rushing to their dogs, cuddling them with lots of hugs and kisses. Or giving them hugs and pats before they leave the house. This, of course, is because they also hate to leave the dog alone as they go about the activities of daily life.
However, these actions only make an already anxious dog even more anxious. In order to make your lovable furball less tense and stressed, it is best to tone down one’s coming and going, so that the dog does not consider them a big deal. This means that just before heading out the door, ignore the dog for a few minutes. The person should do the same thing when he or she comes home as well.
Although this method sounds rather weird, it has worked on several dogs with separation anxieties. Because with this method and habit, the dogs will not feel that their owners are abandoning them or leaving them. By lessening the feeling of abandonment, the dogs will calm down and feel that it is normal and that their owners will be back with them very soon.
If the dog’s anxiety level is mild to moderate, making these changes could resolve the issue. However, in the event that the dog is severely anxious, more work must go into it.
Getting To Where One Can Be Away For Long Periods
The dog’s owner needs to be very committed if they want to work up to this because it takes a long period of time. One needs patience. It is important for the owner to understand that when they start this particular process, as they cannot leave the dog alone for a long period of time. At least not until the anxiety has been dealt with completely, which can take a few weeks. The best way to ensure this is to take vacation time and get a good doggie daycare or a pet sitter to be with the dog whenever the owner is not around until the very last step has been completed.
Training The Dog, One Step At A Time
With a plan ready, and knowing that the dog will have someone around all the time, one can now begin the training process. Every training session will take a minimum of 30 minutes.
Step 1: Open the door and step outside for a few seconds and then come back inside again. Taking note of the dog’s severity level is important because if the dog has great anxiety, one should only step out for a second or two. The idea is to make sure that the anxiety level of the dog does not build during the training process. The moment the owner steps back into the house, check to see if the dog is relaxed. The goal is to make sure the dog remains relaxed throughout the entire process. If the dog is calm, repeat the process again. This should be done for a minimum of 30 minutes, or until the dog does not exhibit any anxiety. Signs of anxiety to look out for include drooling, pacing or panting, among others.
Step 2: The next thing to do is to increase the length of time the owner remains gone from the dog’s sight. This should be an increase of 2 or 3 seconds, depending on the severity of the dog’s anxiety. At this point, mixing up the length of time the owner is gone is also a good idea. Keep adding time until the dog can handle at least 5 minutes without anxiety. One should not be gone longer than 5 minutes until the anxiety completely ceases.
Step 3: The time should continue increasing until the owner can comfortably leave the dog for at least 45 minutes. If the dog can manage that comfortably, then in short order, the time can be pushed to one hour, and then two hours until the person can be gone the entire day without the dog feeling anxious and nervous.
One of the best things that a dog owner can do for their dog is to devote at the very least an hour for training. He or she will be able to see marked improvement in just a matter of weeks. If all the steps have been followed, but the dog is not showing any signs of improvement, it may be time to look for more professional help. You can speak to your veterinarian about it, and he or she can offer medication, or refer the dog to a behaviorist, depending on the best action to take.
Should you decide to seek professional help, here are a few dog training centres in Singapore that might be of assistance:Cheerful Dogs, Happy People, click here. Dog Training Singapore.org, click here. Happy Dog Training, click here. Sunny Chong, click here. Supernova International, click here. The Dog Listener Consultancy, click here.
When the dog is very anxious, not only will their daily routine and behaviour be affected, learning new things and tricks will also become a problem. For dogs who are very anxious, having medication may come in handy to calm the dog so that the training becomes easier. Enlisting the services of an animal behaviourist or a dog trainer can also go a long way since the professionals have the necessary experience and skills to deal with each dog. Their insight and help will likely be invaluable.