What behavior modification techniques are effective in getting my dog to overcome separation anxiety?
The dog’s word is very small and, to them, you are most important. Dogs are also very sociable creatures and they are pack animals
It’s only natural, therefore, that when you go out, your dog experiences varying degrees of distress or anxiety. She becomes confused, doesn’t know where you are going, doesn’t understand why she can’t be with you and worries that you won’t come back. That can manifest in destruction, excessive barking and a host of other things.
So what do you do?
• As always, consult your veterinarian who will help you with treatment or refer you to an animal behaviorist who can prescribe effective drug therapies to alleviate your dog’s anxieties.
• Practice leaving your dog alone for short periods of time. Pick up your keys and leave for one minute. Then come back. Keep repeating and it she’ll soon figure out that you always come back when you leave.
• Gradually increase the amount of time you stay away. This will accustom your dog to your absence.
• Avoid overly emotional good-byes and greetings. Instead, pat your dog on the head and offer a quick good-bye or hello. Sometimes dogs get especially anxious when you are going away, so try to leave the luggage out of sight until you are ready to leave.
• Keep your dog confined in a safe area while you are away. If the dog is crate-trained, she might see it as her own safe “room.” Be sure to leave a bowl of water and plenty of chew toys.
• Teach her the five basic obedience commands and hold short sessions daily. This will not only calm, tire and focus her, but it will help to build her confidence—and will be an incredible bonding experience for both of you.
• Exercise your dog for an hour each day in places other than your yard or home. Throw in a couple spontaneous “sit” and “sit/stay” commands on your walk to really tire her out, help her feel comfortable in other locations and let her blow off steam.
• Praise your dog often to build self-confidence, rather than punishing her for exhibiting frightened behaviors. Punishment only increases anxiety and makes the situation worse.