How to Prevent Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

July 22, 2011

Happily, separation anxiety is preventable if you’re starting with a puppy. The key is teaching him that leaving him alone actually means good things–the goal is for him to associate your departure with something positive. Some effective techniques:

  • Leave Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or cottage cheese ready for him to dig into as soon as you leave.
  • Hide small treats around the house or in his crate. Make sure his favorite toys are tucked safely in places he knows to search. This gives him something to do while you’re gone and helps eliminate boredom.
  • Tire him out. See that he receives plenty of physical and mental exercise and that he gets lots of time with you. When you do leave, he’ll be more content to sleep or just take it easy.

A crate can also be an effective preventive tool. Dogs who’ve been properly introduced to their crate tend to feel safe and secure in this private den. In some cases, dogs prefer the sanctuary of a crate to being left alone in a big open house. Since every dog is different, it’s important to pay attention to exactly which options are comforting to your dog–and which aren’t–before leaving him home alone.

Unfortunately, sometimes separation anxiety just isn’t preventable, especially with an older dog. Experience or genetics may have already triggered the onset. But, thanks to desensitization, crating techniques, and an understanding of the disorder, it’s treatable. In fact, a diagnosis of separation anxiety in no way precludes a healthy and happy existence for your dog. With some extra effort, your relationship can be extremely satisfying for you both.

Bottom line: Separation anxiety has little to do with training or discipline; the behaviors are a result of the severe panic your dog feels when you’re not there. Left untreated, it causes damage to your house and belongings–and serious psychological suffering for your dog. For situations that warrant desensitization treatment, it is strongly recommended that you consult a professional.

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