We all know how a dog’s separation anxiety looks like.
You don’t know?
Then hear me out.
When dogs live in their own natural habitat, with their own kind, they all live together – mom, dad, sisters, and brothers.
They’re always together. They follow someone or they’re hanging out with someone.
In their genes, it is to live in a pack, and they do not understand the fact that they have to be separated.
So the natural thing to do for a dog is to follow someone and to be with them all the time.
We have gathered information about separation anxiety to help you to improve your dog’s health.
What is dog separation anxiety?
The best way to understand the dog’s point of view in this whole thing is to imagine the parent-child relationship.
Does your dog see you as a parent in your relationship or he sees you as a child?
So think about why would your dog would be following you all day?
If your dog feels like they have to keep an eye on you or to take care of you, that’s what he will do. The dog will follow you everywhere you go to make sure you’re ok.
That’s why he will be anxious when you leave – dog’s separation anxiety.
And if the dog will have a mindset of a parent, he will be scared of you leaving the house by yourself.
That’s the difference between dogs and humans. We’re not used to someone following us or we’re not used to it as much because if you have children, they will follow you everywhere you go. But that’s a different story.
We – humans actually practice separation. We grow up and go our separate ways to build our own lives.
What to do if your dog has a separation anxiety?
We have to teach them how to switch from feeling anxiety to peace, love, and happiness. We have to interrupt their pattern and show them how to overcome adversity.
Make sure your dog is having fun while overcoming this separation anxiety, so your dog’s mind associates this with something positive. With time this unnatural feeling will become natural and fun to him.
You can start here:
- Count how many times your dog follows you throughout the day;
- Try to reduce the number by half
As long as you exchange the activities, your dog will be willing to do everything you want.
1. Take the pressure away from your dog
Remember that you have to be the parent in this relationship.
When you notice the very first symptoms that your dog might get anxious, you must interrupt their pattern.
1) Body Block
Block your dog whenever he gets anxious and starts to run around, do this so he knows that you’re serious.
Don’t take NO for an answer.
But don’t be angry.
When you have blocked him you need to guide him in the right direction. That would be his place, his bed, crate, or whatever that he’s used to hanging out at and feels comfortable with.
Be sure he has calmed down before you walk away.
2) Make rules for your dog
Having a clear system of rules makes your and your dog’s life much easier.
If you think that by restraining your dog you’re hurting him, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Your dog actually likes having rules and boundaries. Telling your dog what you want for them to do makes them more calm, stable, and stress-free because they don’t have to think about anything.
2. Create a reference point in your house
- Hold something tasty in your hand and watch how the dog is following you wherever you go;
- Make a reference point somewhere in your house – the dog will start to associate this place with something good;
- Make him stay in that spot;
- Go away for a few scounds;
- Your dog has to stay there to do a task – wait for you to come back;
- So you go back to your dog and give him a treat.
The point of reference gives you access to teach your dog that following you is not a bad thing and waiting on you to come back is also not bad.
Do this at different places in the house. You can use his bed, the carpet, dog cage if you have one, anything works.
When your dog sees the point of the reference, he will eventually know that your point to the spot means that he has to go there because the attachment is going to happen and he has to wait.
You can even practice this when you’re feeding your dog.
Before you do anything else. Point your dog to the reference point, let your dog take his place, and wait for you. In the meantime, prepare your dog’s meal.
When you’re done, give your dog his meal.
3. Practice small distance of separation everyday
1) Door opening
- Put your dog in his reference place and then go to open the door;
- Then close the door;
- Go to your dog and give the treat;
- Practice this a few times.
Practice this slovenly.
See what your dog is doing. If he’s too anxious, take a step back. Do it more slowly.
For your dog, this is an activity. It strengthens your dog’s mental health.
2)Go out through the door
When you have done the previous practice a few times, try to go outside and close the door behind. But don’t stay outside for too long.
- Go out through the door for a few seconds and come back in;
- Check how your dog reacts to this new game. If he’s calm and waiting – reward him;
- Repeat it for a few times.
With time you can increase the duration that you spend outside. Eventually, you will be able to leave your dog home alone without worrying that he might get anxious.
Practicing this step every day can help you to stimulate your dog’s mental health, calmness, ease separation and help your dog to become a better dog.
4. Train your dog physically and mentally
These exercises will help you to prepare your dog for the day.
Remember that if you’re going to work, you’re not going to be home for at least 8 hours. So imagine how your dog would feel if you leave him at home full of energy and anxiety.
If you don’t have time in the morning to do all of this, wake up earlier and make the time for your dog.
1) Before you leave the house be sure your dog gets proper physical activities
Go for a long walk.
If you have a backyard or a place your dog can run without a leash then use it. Throw a stick or a ball, anything your dog likes. Be sure your dog gets rid of his excess energy before going back to sleep for more than 8 hours until you come back from work.
2) Mentally stimulate your dog while feeding him
We’re used to simply putting the food in front of the dog.
Naturally, a dog would have to work to get a meal. By serving the food without any work degrades our dog’s mentality.
So here’s the thing you can do.
Use your dog’s meal on your morning walk to practice heel, recall, down or whatever you are working on right now (you can also use it for your evening walk to practice more).
You can use a snuffle mat. They are great for mental stimulation. Or if you don’t have one use a simple towel – scatter the kibbles above the towel and roll them up so your dog can look for them inside.
Another great thing you can do is to hide the kibbles all around the house and let your dog look for them.
These are just a few things you can do to mentally stimulate your dog. Be creative.
5. Crate train your dog
Take time to train your dog to love the crate.
Use treats, positivity, and time. Here are great tips for crate training your dog.
When you have fully mastered the crate training THEN use it as a tool to deal with your dog’s separation anxiety.
The crate is a great help to calm down the dog and to make rules. This way he will know that he has to be calm and wait for you until you let him out.
Tips for dog separation anxiety
Visualize what you do before you do it, so your dog knows you have something in mind and you’re going to make it happen.
One of the main points is that you have to be calm – calmness is a part of your tools.
Know your energy, strategy, and tools.
So your dog will follow you and your energy through the training.
You have to help your dog to understand how to live with you and make this unnatural lifestyle become natural for him.
These practices won’t make your dog feel bad that you’re leaving him, he will actually feel good because you’re challenging him.
He will understand, eventually, that you are leaving the house, but you will be back. You don’t want him to follow you, but you want him to wait for you.
So there’s nothing to worry about.