Does your dog constantly whine, dig, and destroy items around the house when you’re not home? That could be because your dog is experiencing anxiety from fear of abandonment, separation and aging. Sometimes the source of anxiety comes from external environmental shocks such as loud noises, strangers, and car rides. Sometimes it can be caused by a change of guardian, change in schedule, change in residence, or change in household membership.
Another way to deal with separation anxiety is through training, such as desensitization. Desensitization will help make your departure and absence a lot less meaningful and easier to handle.
How you train your dog to overcome separation anxiety depends on how severe their anxiety is. Here’s how to train your dog in a way that takes their stress level into account:
- Find the Threshold
The first step in the desensitization process is to determine your furbaby’s threshold. Follow these steps:
- Set up a camera, like Furbo Dog Camera.
- Leave the house.
- Start a stopwatch as you leave.
- Watch your dog’s behavior.
- Go far away enough so your dog cannot sense your presence.
- Watch your dog’s behavior for five to ten minutes.
- Know that the threshold is how long it took for anxious behaviors to start.
- Now, knowing the threshold, you can work to gradually desensitize your dog.
Now that you know how severe your furbaby’s anxiety is, you can work on desensitizing them depending on the level of anxiety they experience. Take these steps to get your furbaby used to separation:
- For dogs with lower thresholds, make periods of leaving shorter, and for higher
thresholds, leave for longer periods of time.
- Walk to the door and open it, but do not leave. Close the door.
- Open the door and leave, closing the door behind you. Immediately return.
- Walk to the door and turn the knob, but walk away.
- Pause between steps to do other things like watch TV or do a chore.
- Do not give your dog too much attention during pauses.
- Incorporate pre-departure cues in the desensitization process, such as picking
up your keys and putting on shoes.
- Only add one cue per day.
A few extra tips to keep in mind:
- It may take some time before your furbaby is comfortable with you leaving. Go through training at your dog’s pace.
- Take breaks or at least one day off from training a week. You do not need to train your dog every day.
- Train for no more than 30 minutes a day so as to not cause too much stress.
- Make sure other household members participate in training at least one training session per week.
When you’re not training:
- Do not leave your dog alone outside of desensitization training. Have a friend, family member or other trusted person stay with your furbaby until full training is complete.
- Drop your dog off at a dog daycare, or hire a dog sitter.
- See if you can bring the dog with you to work or other locations.
Once your dog has completed training, your departure will be far less traumatic because your pup will feel much more comfortable with the process.