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How to deal with your dog's separation anxiety?

Updated on September 30, 2007

Dogs are attached to their owners. Unlike cats, who generally do not mind being left to their own devices, dogs do crave your company. The problems start when it is time for you to leave. How to know if your dog suffers from separation anxiety? Now that one is easy, there will panicky looks in their eyes, howling, barking or whining but also there might be a mess waiting for you once you do get back home. And while the neighbors might complain about your monster of a dog, your dog is not a monster, but just very attached to you.

Usually dog owners make a quite a bit of a production just before they leave their dogs on their own, it goes something along the lines cuddling and mummy-will-be-back-soon promises. And that is where most of go wrong. This type of behavior only reinforces your dog's belief that he or she should be worried when you are going to come home.

Like with all dog behavior training this will take time, patience and determination. Even though you might think there is nothing you can do about your dog's separation anxiety since you are not around (that is the reason why it is called separation anxiety to begin with) there is a number of things you can do about it.

First and foremost stop making such a fuss when you are about to leave. While this might seem like a cruel thing to do it is not, in fact it is much better for your dog's anxiety levels. Ignore your dog completely before you walk through that door.

Another thing you might do is to prepare like you are about to leave but stay in the house. That way over a period of time your dog will become more relaxed as he/she will not know if you will leave or not. It is important to note that in case your dog does see you are getting ready to go, but remains seated quietly praise and a treat is in order as this is positive behavior that you will want to reinforce. Another thing you might want to try is to give your dog his/her toy to keep them occupied, especially if it is not a false alarm but you do actually have to leave the house. This way they will start to associate your leaving with a fun toy, much more pleasurable then fear and loneliness.

On to the step 2 you will have to leave at some point. Walk out and listen. If any of the previous tips worked all should be quiet. However if there is whining, barking or howling you will have to wait it - there is no other way about it. To cut down on the heartbreak you might want to walk in before your dog starts to howl to begin with. Yup they will be surprised, but in all probability they will also be happy you are back. And a bit confused. Try to time your comings and goings before the howling starts and profusely award the silence. After a few days of such behavior you should be able to come and go for extended periods of time. It would be advisable to scatter the times when you do come and go so your dog starts to take it in the stride.

The point is to have your dog thinking you will be back any second so there is no need to howl or bark. And remember do not leave with a fuss and lavish treats for the silence. By this point you should have a dog that can be left alone without fear.

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