My mini doxy, Taz, breaks my heart into a million pieces every time I leave the house. Sometimes she’ll actually try to sit on my feet while I’m putting my shoes on. I hate to leave her, especially since she seems to have a harder time of it now that she’s getting older. Finding tips for helping with dog’s separation anxiety has become more and more of a priority for me as Taz ages.
Separation anxiety can be defined with behavior such as drooling, barking, whining, destroying items in the house, scratching at walls, doors and floors, and attempting to escape from the crate or room. Fortunately for me, Taz’s symptoms aren’t as severe as these, but do include pacing and panting and of course, the sad, breaking-mommy’s-heart face.
Causes of Dog Separation Anxiety
I’ve learned that I sometimes unknowingly encourage Taz’s separation anxiety. I make a big fuss when I leave or come home, and in doing so I think I make her think it’s a big deal. What I mean is, because Mommy’s concerned that she’s leaving/absent, then Taz is concerned. But it’s hard to just unceremoniously walk out the door, you know? I’m always practicing not making such a big deal every time I leave.
I’ve also observed that a change in Taz’s routine makes separation anxiety worse. She’s always thrived on routine – it’s like she’s more secure if she knows what to expect next. I try hard to make her little doggie days as routine as possible.
Also, I know Taz does way better with anxiety in general when she has regular exercise/walks. A couple of days without walkies, and Taz is pacing the floors! If I have a day when we can’t go for a walk, I try to at least spend few minutes tossing the tennis ball around in the living room for her to chase.
How to Prevent and Reduce A Dog’s Separation Anxiety
I think this starts when they’re a puppy. I think, for example, that when we bring our puppy home, and they’re in their little bed at night and start crying/whining, we automatically go and pick them up and give them comfort. Tempting, I know, but what it actually does is reward that behavior. We need to focus on teaching the puppy to be quiet and settle down for increasing periods of time. We need to teach them patience and calmness – rewarding them when they are calm, not when they are crying/whining. And even when they’re back out of bed, or back out of their crate, we shouldn’t attempt to give them constant attention . They need to learn to entertain themselves with their toys.
The Importance of Giving Your Dog Confidence
I’ve learned that I have to stop doing so much for Taz. It’s my natural inclination to help her whenever I can, especially if I see she’s having difficulty. But doing everything for her only decreases her confidence. If she can walk from the back yard back to the house, then I should let her – not carry her. If she can find her food or water bowl and help herself, I need to let her do that – not take her to the bowl or bring food/water to her. I need to give her the freedom to interact with guests, neighbors, and even other dogs in the neighborhood without my intervention. In other words, I need to let Taz do for herself – so that she feels CONFIDENT.
Providing Comfort for Your Dog
My dad always used to make fun of me for this, but I often leave a radio on for my dog when I leave the house. I think it achieves two things: one is that it’s a familiar sound which I hope provides a sense of security, and the other is that it helps to muffle sounds of horns beeping, cars going by, etc.
I recently came across a product called Adaptil. It mimics a female dog’s pheromones, and the scent provides calmness and reassurance for dogs. It comes in a collar (Taz wears one), a spray (like to spray their beds, the car for trips, etc), and also a room diffuser. The room diffuser is meant to help with overall anxiety and especially separation anxiety. Simply plug it in a few minutes before you leave, and the scent will help keep your dog calm while you’re gone.
PetCalm is a safe, non-addictive, natural remedy containing 100% homeopathic ingredients especially selected to temporarily relieve symptoms of nervousness, helping to calm your pet and promote a balanced mood.
For more help training your dog and dealing with common dog behavioral issues, visit this fantastic video based dog training website! This website recommends learning How to Become a Pack Leader to treat separation anxiety and many other behavioral issues.
I recently came across Cesar’s Way, a website created by Cesar Millan, the professional dog trainer who had that TV show, Dog Whisperer (love that guy!) I’ve just started checking this site out – I’ll keep you posted on what I learn from Cesar!
I hope this article has given you some ideas to help your dog. And please, if you have other ideas and techniques that have worked, share them in the comment section below! Thanks so much. Debra 🙂
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