March 12, 2013

4 Best Ways to Combat Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Filed under: Dog Anxiety,Dr. Loridawn's Lessons — Tags: — Dr. Loridawn Gordon @ 10:00 am

Have you noticed that your dog has trouble coping when left on their own – even if you leave the room for just five minutes? Do you notice a sudden change in your pet’s behavior when you are with them, compared to when you are not with them? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, it’s possible that your pet is overly dependent on you and has developed separation anxiety.Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs is quite common. Naturally, dogs are pack animals and are instinctively programmed to wanting to be around their pack. I feel separation anxiety comes from lack of leadership in our pack; we failed to teach our dog the skills he needs in being alone.

Common traits that a dog will display when they experience separation anxiety are:

• Crying/whining
• Pacing
• Shaking/trembling
• Barking/howling
• Destructive scratching/ chewing
• Desperate attempts to get out of the house

To expect that our dogs will happily be alone and not bored is a very high expectation, because as a pack dogs naturally would spend hours and hours together. Instead, we need to teach self control to our pets. It’s common for pet owners to want to comfort and spend time with their cute companions, but it’s important to teach our pets to sit, wait for their meals, and be comfortable in their own environment.

In combating separation anxiety, and training your pet overall, I believe that consistency, reinforcement, and discipline are the most important factors that you can practice with your dog. Eliminating separation anxiety will take time and patience, and should be done in phases.

Begin by teaching your dog to be alone on his bed, mat, or crate for small periods of time without eye contact or touch from you. When your pet displays a calm and relaxed attitude, you may reward them with gentle affirmations or treats. As your pet advances in overcoming anxiety in small spaces for short amounts of time, you can start leaving them alone in different rooms, and then gradually increase the time you spend out of the room. Once they overcome their anxiety with being in a room alone, start to leave the house for a few minutes at a time. When leaving your house for longer periods of time, you can also keep your dog entertained and busy by hiding toys or scents around the house. This will not only keep your dog busy, but he will hardly notice that you are gone.

Remember, you don’t want to solve all of your pet’s problems. Instead you want to teach them right from wrong, and help them overcome their fears and anxiety. Here are four tips to keep in mind:

1. Use a firm voice. If you keep your voice firm and unemotional, you communicate a relaxed tone to your dog. A relaxed tone will also help him relax; and over excited tone or using a high pitched (think: baby-talk) or comforting voice (think: “it’s okay, it’s okay) may send the wrong message; you are teaching your dog that you agree with their behavior and how they are reacting.

2. Be assertive and calm. You pet is able to sense your energy. By remaining assertive and calm, you will give off a strong energy, and your pet is more likely to listen to you.

3. Relax your dog. If your dog is anxious and excited, use your firm voice to tell them to sit. When they have listened and you feel that your pet has calmed down, then leave the room or house. It’s important to address your pet’s anxiety, so that they learn how to behave when you are not around.

4. Only reward a calm dog. You do not want to reward your dog with treats or affirmations when they are behaving anxiously. This will give your pet the wrong impression. By running to their rescue every time they experience discomfort, your pet will interpret this as a reward, and this action will only reinforce their bad behavior. Who’s now in control? Remember, you want to be in control, so only reward a calm dog.

Remember that separation anxiety is very common. With training, dogs are able to adapt, especially as puppies. In addition to training your dog to be comfortably alone, you should also provide regular exercise, practice obedience skills, and have realistic expectations. You may also choose to provide your dog with Stress Ease during anxiety training, with herbs such as valerian root, calcium, goth kola, kava kava, and vitamin B12.

Dr. Loridawn Gordon




Dr. Loridawn Gordon


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Disclaimer: 1st Pet Naturals is an education resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet is taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.