Dog Separation Anxiety

Dog separation anxiety is devastating. Beginning from the time you get ready to leave the house, he works himself into a frenzy. Serious cases have resulted in dogs jumping through windows to chase their owners.

However, true separation anxiety is rare. Often, dogs are just a little nervous but calm down quickly. Other dogs are actually anxious for their owners to return and punish them for bad behavior.

Mild Separation Anxiety

The best way to tell how stressed your dog is while you are gone is to record him. If your dog calms down after a half hour or so, this isn't serious separation anxiety.

Give your dog something exciting to do right as you leave, such as bones or toys stuffed with treats. Try tossing your dog's kibble across the living room right as you leave or giving him a special bone he only gets when you are gone. The excitement will help your dog forget his stress.

If your dog is destructive while you are gone, your leaving might cause him stress because he knows he will get punished when you come home. To reduce this stress, give your dog less house freedom. Confine him to an area where he can't get into trouble and greet him happily when you come home, no matter what he has done.

With both types of anxiety, reduce hellos and good-byes. If you get very sad when you leave your dog and happy when you return, he will naturally mirror those responses. Instead, give a short, happy good-bye and short, calm hello.

Serious Separation Anxiety

If your dog does not calm down during your absence, scratches or chews windows or doors excessively or risks injury to escape, he may have full-blown separation anxiety.

To ease your dog's anxiety, the above steps may help, but you will have to take additional steps to reduce the anxiety level. First, create a room for your dog where he cannot watch you exit. Add his favorite things and a DAP diffuser, which releases calming pheromones.

Leave him in that room while you are still in the house for a few seconds. Once he is calm, let him out. Repeat this, moving as slowly as your dog requires, several times each day. Build up to a couple of hours.

Then, start desensitizing your dog to your departure routine. Notice when he starts to get stressed. If it's when you brush your teeth, start there. If it's when you pick up your keys, start there. For example, pick up your keys and set them down without leaving. Repeat frequently so all your cues no longer predict departure.

Put the two steps together. Put your dog in his room. Leave the television or radio on and put a shirt under the door that smells like you. Pick up your keys but don't leave. Let your dog out when he is calm. Practice until you can leave your house and gradually build up the amount of time you are gone. If your dog gets too stressed, you are moving too fast.

Full-blown separation anxiety requires a lot of training and may require the help of a professional trainer. If your dog has separation anxiety, dedicate the time to his treatment as this will dramatically improve his quality of life.