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Does Your Dog Have Separation Anxiety?

Dog owners dread the day when they come home from work to find the couch cushion insides are draped all over the living room, shoes have been chewed on, or there are droppings on the carpet. Even a well-trained dog can misbehave when the owner leaves the home. Separation anxiety in dogs is a distressing behavior and is one of the most common reasons why dogs are euthanized or given up for adoption. If you’re in need of a dog trainer in Fort Collins, contact S. Miley Dog Training And Rehabilitation.

What Are the Signs?

The extremity of separation anxiety ranges from little quirks to more serious actions that cause damage to household items and can harm the dogs themselves. The behavior also varies from dog to dog. Dogs with this behavior often become anxious when they are separated from the owner. Some dogs will become more anxious if they cannot actually see their owner and will follow them around the house. Others don’t become anxious until the owner physically leaves the home. When dogs become anxious, a range of actions can follow, from whining, barking, hyperactivity, chewing, defecating, or even breaking their own teeth or destroying doors.

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What is the Cause?

Specific causes for separation anxiety are unknown but can be due to being the only pet in the home, previous abuse, living in multiple families, not being properly socialized with other dogs or humans, or a traumatic separation of a previous owner. On the other hand, there are some dogs that develop separation anxiety; and this can occur because of a move or as they grow older. If you are the owner of an anxious dog, it is important to understand that this behavior isn’t because they are angry; scolding the dog can just worsen the behavior.

What Should You Do?

The first course of action is to consult with a veterinarian and a dog trainer to determine if the problem isn’t a result of a medical issue, such as a urinary tract infection or because the dog wasn’t fully house trained. If there aren’t any medical issues, dog rehabilitation can include a combination of dog training and anti-anxiety medication for the dog to be able to concentrate on training. There are several behavior modifications that can be done to help ease their anxiety.

  • Teach independence by rewarding the dog when they refrain from following you around. Also, avoid rewarding for behavior that is attention-seeking.
  • Reward relaxation by petting or with treats when they are calm and in a seated position. Provide the dog with a mat or a bed and toys for them to have a space to retreat to.
  • Actions that are taken before leaving the house such as picking up keys, putting on shoes or a coat can signal the dog that you are about to leave the house. Go through this process of leaving the house several times a day, but never actually leave.
  • Creating a comfortable environment for the dog can ease their anxiety. Turn on the radio to a classical station or put on white noise about 30 minutes before you leave. Try giving your dog something that they can focus their energy on as you leave, such as a chew toy.
  • Exercise and a consistent play routine have many health and mental benefits for dogs. Try to give your dog 45-60 minutes of intense play as well as mental stimulation two times a day.

The most important part of treating separation anxiety is to know that punishment will only worsen the condition. It may take time to change the behavior, but with consistent dog training and rehabilitation, the anxiety will lessen. If you feel your dog would benefit from dog obedience classes, contact a dog trainer who is passionate about treating and caring for dogs. Call S. Miley Dog Training And Rehabilitation today.