How to Handle Dog’s Separation Anxiety?

Every dog owner knows that feeling when (s)he has to leave house to work or (s)he can’t take his/her pet with him/her for any reason and (s)he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Can a dog handle the situation or will it bark and go on the rampage? The so-called separation anxiety isn’t only an issue for people but also for animals who have strong ties with us. How to fight this problem and how to make sure your pets can spend a day on their own?

Slowly but surely

A basic rule for a dog to learn to be alone is to take it step by step and practice very often and very carefully. Sport cynologist Daniel Paleček says: “It depends on the dog’s age – teaching a small eight-week-old puppy or an adult dog to be sometimes alone takes different amount of time. However, it will always be a gradual process for both the owner and the dog.”
 
Having a spot only for the dog is crucial

The most important thing for the dog is to have its own spot with everything the dog likes and it knows it’s safe there. Paleček describes the basic steps to overcome the anxiety: “It’s perfect to prepare a bed for thedog that will be only its own. It can be a specially-designed spot in your flat, a carrier box or a cage in the garden, where the dog can go anytime.”
 
Toys or a blanket can help

It’s also important for a dog to have things it likes and is used to around. It’s great if it has toys that will keep it busy or a blanket that belongs to it and it knows it in its bed or cage. Daniel Paleček explains the process of separation: “Every dog is used to some smells and it’s great if it can come back to them when it’s left alone and it can remind itself that this is its home and the owner is only temporarily absent.”
 
A puppy or an adult dog?

When we focus on the most important thing, i.e. how to make it possible to leave the dog alone, its age needs to be considered, A small puppy will need more attention so the process of getting used to being alone will be longer than for an adult dog. A cynologist says: “We can rarely leave a puppy alone for more than two to three hours. It’s because they need special care, such as frequent walking and feeding, which a (for example) eight-year-old dog doesn’t need.”
 
Alone for five minutes

When overcoming separation anxiety, you need to start from the very beginning. It’s definitely not a good idea to leave the house for half a day and expect the dog will get used to it. Paleček recommends: “It’s a good thing to let it get to know its spot which will be prepared and equipped for the dog. You can show the dog the spot as its spot and then go away for about five minutes. Then, you should get back to the dog and see its reactions. If it’s okay, we can gradually make the intervals longer.”
 
Provide constant access to water but not food

Like this, we can leave the dog alone for 30 minutes after some time (when starting with 5 minutes) and we can try to go to the garden or shopping. After some time of practising, the dog should be able to handle longer separation, for example half a day. A cynologist says: “Don’t forget to fill the dog’s bowl with water – it should have an access to it during the whole day.  On the other hand, I don’t recommend leaving a bowl with dry or other kind of food next to its bed. A dog should only get food at specific times and it should know that it should immediately eat it and it can’t go back to it whenever it wants.”
 
Don’t come when called

If you choose an approach with extending the intervals for which you leave the pet alone, the dog will understand that even though you leave, you will eventually come back. So, it shouldn’t have problems with being alone after some practising. Of course, it might be quite difficult for some dogs when their owners leave and they might bark or howl. Daniel Poleček says: “I don’t recommend giving in and coming to the dog as it wants. By this, you can only teach your dog that this works and it will use it whenever it’s not happy.

Even though it can be tough in the beginning, your dog needs to learn that your attention can’t be forced like this. A cynologist recommends: “Wait for a while and only come back when the time runs out. If these problems persist, you can go a few steps back and shorten the time the dog spends on its own.”

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