Dealing with Separation Anxiety of Dogs
First, we need to understand what is separation anxiety. From the dog's point of view, this can be defined as constant whining or barking, biting of household items, constant pacing, excessive drooling, peeing or pooing in the absence of the owner at home. We will discuss the common issues faced by owners with dogs who have separation anxiety and how to reduce it.
Usually, insufficient exercise causes separation anxiety. Exercising tires the dog and a tired dog is always a happy dog. However, never over-exert your dog thinking he will be tired enough to be left at home as he can suffer physically instead of mentally.
Symptom #1 Biting of Door
The most common separation anxiety issue is biting of the main door of which you left the house from. This can be resulted from a lack of exercise and discipline. When a dog exercises, it releases it’s pent up energy and becomes physically tired. Command your dog to stay in a firm tone and leave the house without saying another word. For the first time, set up a hidden camera to watch what your dog does at home. If you are on your way out and sees the dog walking to the door, bring it back to the bed and command it to lay down on the bed again. Do not use any beating or feel frustrated or do the opposite of trying to convince it. Remember that your dog needs time to understand what you want from it. It is important to note that being assertive is different from being abusive. Commanding your dog back onto the bed may need to be repeated a few times before your dog finally stays on the bed and sleep. However, do not give up enforcing that you mean it to only lie down on the bed. Remember to close the door but wait outside silently while watching the dog for any sign of getting up from the bed. If you have a manual lock for the door, mimic the locking sound as some dogs know if you have really left or are simply standing outside the room. Also avoid standing too close to the door as dogs can pick up your scent. At anytime the dog gets up from the bed, enter the house and repeat the same command for the dog to go to the bed immediately. This exercise must be consistently done and not be interrupted to let your dog know it can and must stay on it’s bed in your absence.
Symptom #2 Whining or Barking
Whining or barking is another common issue that many owners face but do not know how to address. This often lead to high anxiety of neighbours and the complaints regarding the dogs. Most of the time, dogs that keeps whining or barking are showing signs of separation anxiety as they do not understand that their owner will be back. Many try the ‘human method’ which is to tell the dog that “I will be back, wait for me and don’t destroy anything at home. Be a good boy ok?” and then proceeds to give constant rubbing. This set the dog to feel as though you have a soft energy and that it is something that needs to be worried about when you leave the house without it. The problem is that dogs understand commands but not new sentences mixed with a variety of words. The long sentence appear to be like a long talk before one departs for a long vacation. When the owners get back, they too immediately rub and give their dogs attention. It thus re-enforces the idea that it indeed was a long time being alone. The dogs will then vocalise like they do in the wild, to get their pack member, you, back to be with it and this ultimately set the dog up to develop separation anxiety.
Symptom #3 Biting household items
Biting of household items can be pretty frustrating. Puppies start biting as a way of exploring the items around them but may continue if not corrected from young, into adulthood. Start off by teaching them what they can bite and what they can’t. When biting toys, just walk over and say a firm no and wait till they drop whatever they are biting. Never pull toys out from them as some may understand it as a game and this may encourage them to lock on to the toy. Grab the toy from one end and slowly move your grip to extend over the whole toy, until they can no longer bite on any part of the toy. Do not move the toy towards you and away from them as it is creating excitement and encouraging them to not give up the toy to you. When it is chewing toys or other items that you want it to chew, reward it in the form of treats or belly rubs (affection). This will let them be aware of what they can chew on.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to contact me for help regarding training or techniques or tips as discussed in this article for your dog.
Wishing owners all the best with their dogs!
Xavian Mar with Vera