7 steps to cure a dog’s separation anxiety.

Truth be told, I don’t like being alone. And when my mom first found me, she worked so I was alone a lot… and destroyed a lot of stuff, did bad things. But I’m not bad, honest! I just needed to know SHE WAS COMING BACK. Hey, I’m a dog! I wasn’t sure! So how’d we get through this rough time?

First, my mom paid for some professional counseling with a vet. Then she read a bunch of stuff. And then she followed these steps:

1. Stop the “I’m leaving now” routines. You see, when a pet’s parent picks up keys, gets a coat from the closet, and walks out the front door– we dogs know what’s going on.  A dog’s going to be left alone!  BARK!  So for a week, my mom tricked me.  She’d pick up her keys and walk around the house with them. Jingle, jingle. Then she’d put them back!  She’d get her coat and wear it around the house, but wouldn’t leave. And she’d use different doors to leave the house– not just the front one. Tricky! I could no longer tell when she was going to leave!

2. Leave for little bits at a time. Then gradually, add time. One Saturday, my mom left for five minutes, then came back. (She said, later, that she stood on the porch for those minutes, but I couldn’t tell as I couldn’t see her.) An hour later, she left for 15 minutes, then came back. An hour later, she left for 30 minutes, then came back. And a couple of hours later, she left for 45 minutes, then came back. Then on Sunday, she left for 30 minutes, then came back. And so on– extending the amount by 15 minutes each time. But she only had a weekend, so…

3. Enroll in dog daycare temporarily, if need be. Because my mom worked full-time, she didn’t have a week to acclimate me to being left alone for 8 hours. So I went to dog daycare for a week, until the weekend, when she resumed the above– eventually extending it to 8 hours.

4. Cease the coming home ceremonies. That means, don’t give tons of kisses when you return. In fact, don’t greet at all!  Just walk in and resume your duties. Greet calmly. Pet parents should teach their dogs that coming home is no big deal, and there’s really no great reward it it.  That said…

5. When you leave, leave a special treat behind. Even better: something that keeps your dog busy, to keep his/her mind off your leaving. The Tug-A-Jug is my busy-body-toy of choice. Or sometimes my mom stuffs a Kong with frozen peanut butter. (That takes me for.ev.er to finish, and I guess that’s the point.)

6. Exercise independence. As much as I was attached to my mom, she (she admits) was attached to me. So she started letting me be more independent. When we went to dog parks, she’d stop watching me, and she’d let me wander to the other end of the park without her. And she stopped calling me to her constantly. When we’d go on walks, she gave me a superduperawesome loooooong Flexi-leash and let me wander (Note: after our separation anxiety had ceased, she went back to a 6′ leash. Ruff.).  And she stopped watching my every move. Hey, maybe a dog CAN be on his own…

7. Make sure your dog is getting enough activity. Every dog needs a daily walk; that’s a given. But how much? My mom began walking me 1/2 hour in the morning before work, then a 1/2 hour after work. After that, we’d have a little playtime. Play ball, play tug (just be careful!), or do some training.  Training, remember, takes a lot of concentration; so that can wear me out. Sometimes, she’d take me to the (dog) park. Other times, she’d take me to the (pet) store. And if she didn’t have time for those, she’d give me weights to carry on my walk.  Whew! Talk about dog tired. Who knew carrying full water bottles on a dog’s back would be so energy-zapping. But all this helped me sleep better during the day when my mom was out.

8. Get medicine if necessary. If it’s gotten to the point where a canine compadre is say, chewing through a metal crate (ahem), then he/she needs some meds– at least, at first. Don’t worry; there’s no shame. A dog doesn’t have to take them forever. Consult with your vet, and I bet he/she will say you can be on them for a while, do the above steps, and eventually there will be no need for drugs.

Yes, it’s hard to cure separation anxiety, but it’s totally do-able. And so totally worth it.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] went sniffing around on the interweb to help find her some other ideas and found wes’ blog which made some suggestions (7 actually).  There are a few there we have not tried and may […]

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