How to Fix Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a tough issue to battle. Not only can it cause problems in your home (ie: constant barking or whining, destructive behavior, indoor accidents, etc.), but it’s not fun knowing that your dog is in distress and cannot feel comfortable on their own.
Many dog owners think that good way to deal with separation anxiety is to give more attention or coddle the dog, so to make them feel more safe. However, this could actually backfire and make the dog more dependent on you and your presence. Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety are lacking confidence, and it is our job to instill more confidence in the dog and prepare them for any type of situation, that may or may not involve us being present.
A couple of weeks ago, I had my first lesson with a dog named Lizzie, who was suffering from serious separation anxiety from her owner. When Lizzie was first adopted, she was treated like the queen that she is – lots of treats, attention, and even sleeping in the bed with the owner. However, the owner felt like they needed to transition Lizzie to her crate more, as she was not completely housebroken yet and showed signs of destructive chewing. The first day Lizzie spent the day in the crate while her owner was a work was a disaster – the next door neighbors complained about her howling all afternoon and when her owner returned home, Lizzie was missing a tooth, as she had tried to use her mouth to break out of her crate!
Lizzie’s owner wanted to use the crate for management, but what was not addressed was the crate being used as an introduction to confidence-building. After calling and signing Lizzie up for my dog training program, we worked together to give Lizzie a consistent structure where she was told what the boundaries were, and what were the behaviors that led to reward and success for her. Her crate was a negative association for her, so we had to make it a more positive place for Lizzie – having her see it not as a confinement area necessarily, but rather a safe place that she can relax in. We put chew bones and toys to help her feel more comfortable and less bored while she was in the crate, and if she demonstrated any inappropriate behavior in the crate, we communicated to her that was no longer an option, but instead there were better options that she could choose and feel more secure with!
Separation anxiety is a serious problem, but it is something that can be overcome. It must be approached delicately and consistently. Most importantly, it is about getting to the root of the problem which is typically lack of confidence and boundaries. Once those are addressed, things become a lot easier on the dog, and ultimately, easier on the owner.
Does your dog exhibit signs of mild or severe separation anxiety? You and your dog deserve happiness, and separation anxiety can be trained! Call 800-649-7297 to talk to me about your dog’s separation anxiety, and what we can do to solve it!