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How To Stop Separation Anxiety In Dogs

Throughout these puppy training articles, I’ve talked a lot about the importance of creating a relationship of leadership and trust, and even dependence, between you and your puppy. However, there does come a point where this relationship can be too strong.

“I felt like I could never leave my dog alone, and his Separation Anxiety would break my heart.  Now I can leave the house whenever I want, and my dog couldn’t be happier!”

Stop Separation Anxiety

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“There can’t be anything more heart-breaking, and time consuming, for a dog owner then Separation Anxiety.  Finally there’s a simple, easy and compassionate solution for both you, and your dog!”

Separation anxiety in dogs is the number one cause of dog behavior problems. What can happen, is that your puppy or can develop a case of separation anxiety, where they simply aren’t comfortable unless they’re around you.  This obviously becomes a problem because you can’t be with your dog 24 hours a day!

We both know dogs are entirely capable of spending time on their own.  Like children, they just need to build the proper trust and confidence that when you leave, you’re coming back.  Let’s remember… they look to you for food, shelter, and companionship.  Why wouldn’t they be worried when you leave — but they don’t have to be!

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How To Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The steps outlined below should be viewed both as proactively preventing major separation anxieties from developing in your young puppy, and steps you can take to reduce separation anxiety once it’s already developed.  For all 12 steps on removing separation anxiety from your dog,

How To Stop Separation Anxiety In Dogs

    1. Make sure you are taking proactive steps to give your puppy the right obedience training and other basic training. This combats behavior problems like barking and jumping up, will go a long way towards combating separation anxiety before it starts, because the puppy will have less of a reason to believe that you are abandoning him.  The Hands Off Dog Training Formula solves general obedience issues, as well as separation anxiety!
    2. Make sure that, whenever you are away from your puppy, he has everything he needs (aside from you) in order to be comfortable. For example, bedding, food, water, and possibly even entertainment.
    3. Make sure your puppy gets plenty of exercise. This is one of the main causes in our modern society for mental health problems in puppies. Puppies do need to get their energy out. If they have excess energy stored up that isn’t being spent through walks and playing, then that stored-up energy is going to become nervous energy when they’re alone.

On the flip side, if you’re giving your puppy plenty of exercise and play before you leave the house, they’re going to be both contented and tired when you leave. This will drastically reduce the risk of misbehavior as a result of your absence.

separation anxiety in dogs

This point deserves a side note to say: Puppies that don’t get enough exercise are the ones that are more likely to exhibit destructive behavior if they experience separation anxiety. This is because the energy has to be spent somehow. Add separation anxiety, and the puppy will act out.  for all 12 steps that eliminates your dog’s separation anxiety… starting today.

Most of All! Don’t Reward Your Puppy’s Separation Anxiety!

Make sure that you yourself do not contribute to their anxiety about coming and going. Don’t allow your puppy’s whining and crying to be a thing that you reward through extra attention. As you’re getting ready to leave, if your puppy is feeling anxious, ignore them. If they cease being anxious, then reward them. When you leave, just go – be nonchalant – show them it’s no big deal by not participating in their anxiety about it.

separation anxiety in dogs

When you come home, repeat that. If you come home and your puppy greets you with a ton of anxiety, freaking out as if they’ve not seen you for a year, simply ignore them. Settle into the house and get yourself comfortable for several minutes before you bother to greet your dog. If, on the other hand, your dog begins to shed these habits of anxiety, reward that.

The reason for both these steps, is a matter of avoiding the reward for the anxiety. You don’t want to reward the dog for freaking out – doing so would be a matter of positive reinforcement for a behavior that you don’t want.

Separation Anxiety

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Why Separation Anxiety in Dogs is So Important

I must emphasize over and over the need for proper steps to make sure that your puppy both trusts you and looks to you as their pack leader, but also to make sure that your puppy is confident.

As much as you might want to have your puppy in your lap all the time, and constantly looking to you for fun and attention, you have to keep in mind something extremely serious:

  • Behavioral problems are the biggest reason why puppies are sent to animal shelters.
  • Separation anxiety is the number one cause for behavioral problems.

So, you don’t want to smother your puppy to the point where it’s likely that they’ll experience separation anxiety when you’re not around.

What Causes Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

Puppies and people are both social creatures, which means that they both require social contact in order to be well-adjusted and have good mental health. However, there are subtle differences in “normal socialization” between the two species. So, there are different situations that will lead to separation anxiety.

In the wild, puppies live in a pack. They travel as a pack, hunt as a pack, sleep as a pack – everything. Humans, on the other hand, are more accustomed to solitude. No matter how well-trained or confident your puppy is, there’s always some anxiety when they’re alone. It’s just not natural for a dog to be alone or away from his pack.

What are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

In order to help you recognize separation anxiety in dogs, here are a handful of symptoms you can easily watch for, in order to know whether you need to do more work in order to raise more confidence in your puppy.

  • If your puppy becomes extremely agitated when you start preparing to leave the house. This is a definite sign of separation anxiety in dogs.
  • If you come home from being away, and find your puppy has been engaging in bad behavior, this is another sign that he was extremely anxious while you were away.
  • If your puppy follows you everywhere around the house, wanting to be directly under your feet, and becomes upset if separated from you by just one room, this is a sign of separation anxiety.
  • If your puppy greets you when you return home in a way that shows he is working out an extremely high level of stress. If this greeting is “beyond excited,” especially if it includes trembling and crying, burying his face in your body, etc – this is a big red flag for separation anxiety. This means the puppy has had a horrible, scary day, simply because you weren’t there.

“Click here for more information on the causes, symptoms, and SOLUTIONS to your dog’s Separation Anxiety.”

What are the Causes for Separation Anxiety in Dogs?

There can be several different causes. Obviously, separation anxiety, from what I’ve said above, is a default pattern for a new puppy who hasn’t yet learned about living with people. However, there can be other triggers for separation anxiety in dogs, such as:

  • This one is obvious: Some puppies are brought home from shelters and pounds. During the time in the shelter, they were stressed out a lot. When they come home with you and get to know you, that stress is relieved in a very dramatic way for them. Anytime they are away from you, early while learning the new environment, they might fear you’re abandoning them.
  • Early during puppy life, if something bad happened, they’re going to relate that to the anxiety of being alone. For example, being alone during a really nasty storm can frighten the puppy very badly. If they’re alone, they might react to future storms, whether alone or not, with that same level of heightened stress.
  • A change in your routine or your expectations, which separate the puppy from you in a way that they’re not used to. Dogs are very much creatures of habit, and changes can stimulate separation anxiety in dogs.
  • The effects of these changes in routine can be more pronounced if the puppy was raised during a period of time where you didn’t need to leave the house at all. Then suddenly, you get a job, and the puppy is introduced for the first time to a schedule where you’re away from the house.

These are just a few examples. The main thing to keep aware of is that any change in routine, especially any change of schedules, scenery or settings, carries a risk that they will gain separation anxiety symptoms.

A Practical Example of Treating a Puppy with Separation Anxiety

In order to review, let’s take a look at a simple program for using basic obedience training and positive reinforcement in order to reduce separation anxiety in a dog who’s already developing it.

First, make sure you ignore all his attempts to get your attention when he’s experiencing separation anxiety.

Second, work on obedience for commands such as “down,” “stay,” “wait,” and “outside.”

Third, make sure that when your puppy is calm, you do give him lots of positive social time, playing and giving exercise. Generally, have a positive relationship, without reinforcing a need to be around you all the time.

Fourth, use either time outdoors, or time in a crate (or both) over very short periods, in order to build up a tolerance of being away from you. Do this very graduallywhen you are home. When treating separation anxiety in dogs, only leave him alone for a matter of seconds. Put him outside, go inside and close the door, wait a handful of seconds, then go back outside again. Wait for your dog to be calm before you make contact. Repeat this over and over. Always praise your dog for the proper behavior of being calm, and be mindful that you don’t praise your dog or reward them with interaction if they’re freaking out.

separation anxiety in dogs

Fifth is to start working on specific signs of you leaving, that your dog has habitually associated with gaining stress. For example, put on your coat and/or shoes, but then don’t leave. Make a show of putting your keys in your pocket, and then play with your dog. Continue to use the rule of thumb: don’t reward your dog’s panic by giving attention. Only reward them for the correct behavior of allowing you to put on your coat or grab your keys without stress. Make sure, on the other hand you do reward the calm behavior.

Don’t rush any of this. These steps should take weeks, for a dog that’s got a problem with separation anxiety. Also make sure you don’t skip ahead on these steps before your dog is used to the step you’re working on. Each step ought to be taken seriously until your dog can deal with that step, without anxiety.

Once these triggers are no problem for your puppy, finally start training your dog to actually deal with you leaving the house. Go outside and close the door for a few seconds, then go back inside. If your dog is calm, then reward him. If your dog is freaking out, stay inside, but ignore him. This will help establish a sense of normalcy, that nothing is wrong with you leaving, and nothing is “amazingly awesome” about you returning. Gradually increase the time that you are outside with the door closed, starting with seconds and working your way slowly toward minutes. It’s important to come inside before the dog starts having serious separation anxiety-related stress.

A Quick Word about Using Medication to
Deal With Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Don’t resort to medication lightly. Even if your puppy’s case of separation anxiety is severe, try to deal with it through active training processes for at least a couple of months before considering medication. Even if your veterinarian recommends medication before you’ve tried training, consider working with your dog for a couple of months first – unless your dog is harming himself. The treatment of training your dog to get used to your absence without medication will be much more effective in the long run than drugging your dog until he feels fine no matter what.

Separation Anxiety

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