Recently we at Pet Insurance watched the Channel 4 documentary the secret life of dogs, which focused mainly on dog separation anxiety. A common problem with all the owners and their dogs was that the owner didn’t know that the dog had any anxiety. It wasn’t until the documentary makers showed them footage from the cameras in their homes that they realised what was going on. Some owners cried when they watched the footage back. The images of their dogs sad howling, barking, searching and longing for their owners to come back where very upsetting to watch.
Most owners only hear about the howling and barking from their neighbours or come home to find their favourite pair of shoes destroyed. In nature dogs are never away from the pack, but one of the findings of the documentary was that even in two dogs households, one dog can still suffer from separation anxiety.
Here are 5 tips to help ease your dog’s anxiety:
1. Take your dog for a walk before you leave the house.
Start your day with a brisk walk with your dog. A dog backpack with extra weight in it can help to make it more rigorous. You can then reward your dog’s calm-submissive energy with food and water. Some dogs may need to rest before eating, but all dogs can benefit from hydration. You want to leave your dog in quiet, resting mode while you are away.
2. Say goodbye to your dog a long time BEFORE you leave
If you say goodbye to your dog just before you leave, you might think that you’re being affection and caring, but you’re actually signalling to them that you’re leaving. You might as well be saying “it’s time to feel anxious now- I’m leaving you!” So avoid doing this as best you can. Tell your dog that you miss her/him a long time before you leave. The display is for you, not for your god. Your dog will not have your feeling hurt if you didn’t say goodbye.
3. No touch, no talk, no eye contact.
If you make a fuss over your dog when you leave for day or when you return, you are communicating that the time apart is a huge deal (for both of you). Easing separation anxiety is about making sure that your dog feels more independent from you. When you practise “no touch, no talk, no eye contact” you’re making sure your dog knows it’s just business as usual when you leave them. You might need to practise it between 5 minutes to an hour before you leave depending on the severity of your dog’s anxiety.
4. Stay calm and assertive!
You are your dog’s master so stay calm and assertive. Remember your dog can sense your feelings, so if you’re feeling guilty, nervous and concerned, your dog will also feel guilty, nervous and concerned! Project the confident energy of a pack leader and this will ease the separation anxiety in dogs. Assuring your dog that everything will be okay with your behaviour rather than with your words will calm them down.
5. Start out small with separation training.
Train your dog to be on their own by leaving on their own for five minutes, then extend it to twenty minutes and work your way up to an hour. Continue to increase the time you spend away until you can leave for a full eight hours without any more dog problems!