How to deal with separation anxiety in dogs

The symptoms of this common problem may include whining, excessive salivation, barking, destroying items, scratching walls, floors and doors and trying to escape.

This experience is distressing for the owner not only because of the damages caused by the dog but also because of the anxiety they perceive their dog is feeling.

Dogs are pack animals. They naturally don’t like to be left alone or separated from the rest of the pack. In the wild this can be very dangerous, so it is a natural instinct for dogs to feel anxiety when left alone. Because of this, people need to modify their behavior so that the dog feels it’s ok to be without them.

From the beginning of your time with your dog, you want to avoid big “hellos” and “goodbyes”. People have a habit of making a big deal when they leave and a big deal when they come home. Just imagine if your spouse did this to you every time they left or came home. You may be worried, thinking why they acted so crazy as if they were never coming home again. You should ignore your dog when you leave and for about 5 minutes when you get home.

Another suggestion is to do the things you do right before your leaving often and don’t leave. For example, put your coat on but don’t leave, go sit on the couch. Pick up your keys and walk around the house with them. Get your dog used to these things and desensitized to them.

Work on basic obedience. Obedience is the key to solving most problems. Teach your dog the down-stay command and make your dog stay in that position in one room while you go to another room. You need to teach independence, it is not good if your dog is following you everywhere.

Finally, do not yell, get mad, or punish your dog when you arrive home and find your chair chewed. You may be angry, but yelling at your dog is only going to make the problem worse. Your dog will not necessarily associate you being mad with the chair being chewed and it may increase his anxiety. Dogs read body language so try to relax, clean up the mess and call a professional.

It takes time to rid a dog of severe separation anxiety, so the best thing is to prevent it using the strategies discussed. Hire a professional if you think that your dog may be showing signs of anxiety so it can be dealt with before it is extreme.