Our client asked the question,” My dog has separation anxiety. How do I train her out of that problem?”
To answer this, I want to preface it by saying if you’ve got a young puppy go check out one of our newest articles on how to get your puppy to be a confident adult dog and read it. However, if you are past the puppy stage and have a teenage or adult dog going through separation anxiety this episode will be for you! Of course, all things we say might not work perfectly for everyone’s exact situation, but these tips may help you get through some of the tough moments. An often-overlooked fact when you get a dog whether it’s a brand-new puppy or an adult from a rescue is that you must create positive association with them facing time alone.
Often the case when we get our new buddies is to spend every waking moment together because you can’t get enough of them. That can be so detrimental to their maturing process and often leads straight to separation anxiety starting. I say that, to continue with telling you it is okay for you to still practice your dog having alone time even if they are a rescue with a heart wrenching back story of being left alone a lot. Typically, the case there is that it was not left alone in a positive manner and that is the new habit you must create. This takes a lot of time and patience, when your dog has true anxiety and solidified behaviors it takes three months at a minimum to train them past the anxiety and build their new habit of confidence and comprehension that being left does not equal the end of their world.
It is best to ensure when you are getting ready to start separated practice that your dog has a safe confinement space to be, typically a crate but it could be an enclosed play pen as well. If you already know your dog is an escape artist or destroys regular crates you need to commit to investing in a space that is safe and can contain them, we love Impact Crates for this very reason BUT they are an investment. A good one into your dog’s safety and training but an investment none the less.
(RF thoughts, other crate/confinement suggestions——-) When practicing you will put your dog in the designated space with some kind of treat, bone, or toy and leave them. You could put them in one room of your home and simply close the door and come back or even go out of your house, but when you start the practice, you are going to start with a very short amount of time ten minutes max and build them up to longer and longer durations.
You will not go rescue them the moment they cry or scratch to get out. You want your dog to learn to self soothe and work through their anxiety without you standing outside of their crate telling them they’ll be okay. You must be strong willed and not give in during this time, that is why you are doing a very small amount of time until ten minutes is easy and quiet, as your dog develops their own confidence and calming techniques you are going to up the time.
Your dog does not have to sleep this whole time that’s why you provide safe enrichment to help them with boredom and a release of their anxiety. True separation anxiety will take a lot of time to work through but is worth it in the end as you will have a more confident dog in the long run.