Does your dog bark like crazy when you leave the apartment? Do you come home to shredded couches, land mines in the middle of the living room floor, and death threats from neighbors posted on your door?
Separation Anxiety is a common problem. It’s also one of the biggest reasons why dogs are relinquished to shelters. It’s the most common, yet one of the easiest to address. He flips out when you’re gone because you are their world–they never learned to be alone.
I’m a ten-year-old veteran, so take it from me. I love being alone. I’m cool with it, because I am comfortable in my own skin. I’m not nervous, because I know my place–I know that my master returns to me no matter what–I trust him. He will never fail me. But I had to learn this. It was not automatic, because we dogs love to be around humans. When you close that door behind you, we have no idea what happened. We don’t understand that you went to work and will be back by dinner. What helps us is a reliable pattern–we thrive on boundaries and schedules that are consistent.
The cure for separation anxiety is confidence. And we need your help to build it.
Here are some tips from my ten year experience as a veteran, Zen dog:
1. Daily, provide strict leash walks to establish the bond with you. The dog should not forge ahead. The walk is the ultimate opportunity to show your dog that you are the alpha, his leader. The leash is a tool to develop the trust and bond with your dog–show him how to walk correctly, and by doing so, he will also develop the bond. The dog develops a sense of security with his leader through the leash.
2. Crate the dog. The dog should not have free reign of your home. If not crated, give him space that he can call his own by creating a penned area with his bed. Den-like environments, where they are taught that such a space is their comfort zone, make them feel secure. Not only does this make them feel safe and secure, it also prevents them from destructive behavior such as chewing on your furniture. It makes them feel safe, and makes them safe, for they are not given the opportunity to rummage through the trash to pluck out that roast chicken carcass. He does not understand that chicken bones are going to cause delayed problems in his butt.
3. Tire us out. A tired dog is a good dog. The best cure for separation anxiety is fatigue. Let us be a dog. Let us run. Let us socialize. Don’t carry us, we want to walk, we want to sniff, we want to roll in the grass and wrestle with other dogs. Don’t put us in a purse. Give us a job–keep us busy.
4. Provide strict and reliable daily routines for us to follow. Walk us at the same time, and feed us at the same time every day. We thrive on consistency–knowing what’s next makes us feel secure.
5. When we follow you around the house profusely, tell us to go away–point at our bed, and tell us to go to bed. Teach us to be less needy and dependent on you.
6. When we are nervous and protest separation, don’t console us. Ignore us when we are whining. By speaking to us softly, picking us up, or hugging us when we are sad, you’re inadvertently reinforcing our anxiety. You’re rewarding us when we are anxious. Praise us only when we are behaving the way you want us to behave.
To us, speaking, hugging, touching–any kind of attention from you is a reward.
Do not reward us for our anxious behavior.
With these tips in mind, I’m sure that your dog will be as calm and solid as me!
Elliot the Veteran