How to deal with separation anxiety in dogs
If you’re dog suffers from separation anxiety then start by getting ready to go out while making all the signals (self cues) very obvious – like pack up a bag – picking up the keys – making it look as if you are very intent and focused on getting ready. Do this repeatedly until the dog isn’t bothered at you getting ready and it is meaningless to him/her.
Then you move on this routine to involve him/her – ‘right then boyo/girlie am off – see you later’ calm but no fuss or touching him/her – leave dog with a toy or and kong or a buster cube etc – slam the door – walk down the road 2 minutes and then come back as if you had forgotten something – in to house – totally ignore – no greeting – no voice – dog does not exist – then go back out again – then come back after 4 minutes – repeat and repeat until you can get 15 minutes – with me? What this does is teaches them you are coming back – after you have it to 15 minutes – do your coming in routine – still no fuss etc – empty the bag – put the keys away – make a cuppa – then sit down and speak to him/her – daft voice time – well then what you been up to me been busy sort of chat – don’t over do the fuss – pick up a magazine etc.
Eventually s/he will get the idea that it is ok to be left – and leaving means something good is going to happen because s/he gets a buster cube etc and you are coming back.
It might help to begin with if you leave a radio or tv on low – turn down an answer machine/phone signal so s/he doesn’t get startled and can’t hear your voice.
By doing this exercise with new pups or new rescues you will diminish the risk of destructive behaviour and noise because the dog will not associate being left = anxiety or boredom.
Written by Bev Cobley for BDWS. Bev is a dog trainer and canine dietician. She has written many blog posts for BDWS including amazing home-cooked recipes for dogs which dogs adore!