How to Prevent Dog Separation Anxiety in Park Ridge, NJ
Becoming a puppy parent may sound like the easiest decision in the world. You get a lifelong companion, someone to come home after a long day to, and someone to take on adventures. Sounds amazing, right? It is!
But, that doesn’t mean that raising a puppy is as easy as the decision to get one. There is so much that goes into training and teaching manners and it’s critical that your puppy learns from an early age to prevent a behavioral concern called separation anxiety.
What is Separation Anxiety for Dogs?
Separation anxiety is a condition where your puppy or dog becomes frightened and distressed when you leave him alone. Both dogs and puppies can experience separation anxiety, but it’s more common in puppies. When your dog experiences separation anxiety, he can be quite destructive.
Some will bark, cry, dig, chew, urinate, defecate, or even try to escape. These behaviors could also be caused by boredom, so you need to look for the other symptoms of separation anxiety. This could be drooling or noticing that your dog acts scared or stressed when you grab your keys.
It can be hard to admit that your puppy is having the equivalent of a panic attack every time you leave. No one wants to feel like they’re the reason their new best friend is in pain. The first step into fixing the problem is figuring out the underlying cause.
Is it actually separation anxiety or is it boredom or lack of training? Once you’ve concluded that it is separation anxiety that’s causing your dog’s behavioral issues, it’s time to treat it.
Reasons for Separation Anxiety in Dogs
No one is sure why some puppies and dogs are more prone to separation anxiety than others. If you’re getting your dog from the shelter or from a situation where her previous owner had to let her go, there’s a good chance she will show signs of separation anxiety.
Another reason an older dog might start experiencing separation anxiety is a death in the family, a break-up, or your child leaving for college. When her routine is completely changed or she loses one of her humans, it can trigger a negative response.
Remember that you don’t need to abandon her or give her up to a shelter over these behaviors, they can be fixed.
Helping Your Dog with Separation Anxiety in Park Ridge, NJ
There’s nothing worse than coming home from a long day to your couch being urinated on and all your pillows destroyed. Your first reaction might even be to yell at your dog. That is never the solution.
There are a few ways to train your dog to like, or at the very least, tolerate being alone for long periods of time.
An important piece of all puppy training is crate training. For one, it can help prevent separation anxiety. For another, it offers your puppy a safe and secure place where they can relax and not feel over-stimulated. Crate training is not a cruel practice meant to punish your dog.
You need to look at it as creating a safe haven for when you’re gone. There are plenty of great online resources for crate training but taking it in increments is a great way to start. Leaving your pup in a kennel for 8 hours the first time will likely shock him into more severe separation anxiety.
The crate should have chew toys and food puzzles to keep your puppy occupied and interested. A great tool is a Kong stuffed with high-value treats. This could be banana, low fat peanut butter, low fat cream cheese, or cottage cheese. By using high-value treats, your dog will start to associate the crate with a good experience rather than a bad one.
You can even feed your dog all of their meals stuffed into the Kong. Try freezing it with the food inside so it takes longer to get it out. This trick is best for dogs and puppies with mild separation anxiety because dogs with more severe cases don’t tend to eat without their humans at home with them.
Desensitization and Counterconditioning
Another option to prevent and treat separation anxiety is desensitization and counterconditioning. The goal of this training is to teach your dog that it isn’t a bad thing when you leave. Start by leaving for short amounts of time, like to get gas.
Give him a high-value treat as you leave so that he starts to associate your absence as a positive. It might also be valuable to try picking up your keys or coat and then not leaving. Simply grab the keys and go sit down. That will desensitize your dog to the sounds and sights of departure.
You also need to make sure you’re relaxed when you leave and when you come home. Of course, it’s ok to show your puppy some love, but don’t make a big deal out of you leaving. Simply say goodbye in a happy tone and walk out.
Then, when you come back, reward him if he’s quiet and calm with a treat to reinforce the behavior. As previously stated, if your dog does misbehave while you’re out, do not yell at him. Simply clean up the mess and move on.
Exercise of the mind and body is a great way to reduce the symptoms of separation anxiety. If you have a large breed that’s known for being active, make sure she gets all the exercise she needs. Take long, brisk walks and play fetch to get her running.
To get the mind working, do a daily training session. Work on something simple like “stay” or try more advanced tricks like “play dead”. When your puppy is tired, both mind and body, she is more likely to be content and relaxed.
Medication or Natural Supplements
Finally, you may need to talk to your vet about medication or natural supplements. There are pills that your dog can take for depression and anxiety that can help in severe cases. It’s always best to consult your vet before starting over the counter supplements as well.
You need to make sure it’s safe for your dog. By utilizing these training techniques and staying consistent, you and your dog should be able to work through his separation anxiety and get him to feel comfortable being alone.
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