Training for separation anxiety in dogs
Separation anxiety is the dread or fear that your dog experiences when someone that they are attached to leaves them. So a typical instance of this might be when you go to work in the morning, the dog might get tense or anxious. Typically this anxiety produces negative behavior in the animal. It may howl or bark, urinate or defecate in the house, start to chew things or bite itself. Obviously this is not good for the dogs state of mind or your home. So what can be done about separation anxiety in dogs?
Separation anxiety prevention should begin at birth. A puppy that is not allowed to wean off it's mother could display separation anxiety in later life. It should be weaned off and relatively independent by around the eight week period so don't get a puppy that is younger than this.
Start teaching your puppy about separation anxiety as soon as it gets into it's new home. although it is hard not to cuddle a puppy, try not to be too affectionate. This is pertinent at night times when you are going to bed. Place you puppy in it's sleeping basket and walk away. Don't make a fuss of it. It will learn that there will be times when it is alone.
If you make it clear to the puppy that you will not always be there then it will get used to it and will probably not suffer from separation anxiety when it gets older.
It might not be as straightforward to train a grown dog to not suffer from separation anxiety. Often grown dogs may have come from a shelter, the pound or have been given to you by the previous owner.
If it has come from the pound or shelter then it may have been neglected in the past. Dog's a sensitive to abandonment and have a rational fear of being separated from the owner. It may have received little affection whilst in the pound too, which will only heighten it's anxiety.
If a dog has been given away by a previous owner there is generally a good reason for this. The dog may have behavioral problems but it may also be that the family has had it own share of problems. The couple may be going through a divorce or maybe they are having financial difficulties. All these problems will filter through to the dog and could manifest as separation anxiety.
So older dogs have a genuine reason to feel anxiety from their past experiences. You should try to reassure them that the future will be different. In terms of leaving the home, you should start slowly and build up the separation time. Initially you should go away for a few minutes. Don't fuss about leaving or returning. This will calmness will translate to the dog and it will understand that this is a normal behavior.
Continue doing this but increase the length of time that you a separated from your pet. If the dog starts to howl or get anxious then go back to a time period that is comfortable. Although this might be tedious, you should continue it until the dog does not get anxious when you leave.
Other strategies include keeping the dog busy while you are away. So you could fill a toy with peanut butter or cheese spread and give it to your pet. This will keep it so busy trying to get at the tasty treats in the toy that it does not consider the issue of separation.