Man’s best friend can sometimes have difficulty being away from his beloved owner. Separation anxiety in dogs is in fact a very real phenomenon that can lead to increasing problems between the dog and its environment, or the owner and his neighbours, since affected dogs will often exhibit their distress by incessant barking.
The most common cause of separation anxiety is the intense bond between dog and owner, to the point where the dog believes that his world will fall apart when his owner is away. A dog may actually become very possessive of his owner if he is very permissive or overly attentive to the dog’s every demand. The first thing you must do to help treat separation anxiety is to reestablish a more laid-back, or even indifferent, routine when you are preparing to leave the house. This step may seem difficult, but it is essential in order to decrease any feelings of frustration, of fear, or of loss that your dog may be feeling each time you leave. As you are about to leave, instead of speaking to or petting your dog, try to either ignore your dog or ask him to perform certain commands like ”sit” or ”lie down” if you notice signs of anxiety associated with your departure. When you come home, try to remain neutral and ignore your dog for the first few minutes before you pet him, rewarding him with your attention for being calm.
In order for your dog to not feel lost and alone when you leave, it is important that he have access to a space where he feels safe after your departure, and that this area be a favourite place where he likes to spend time on a regular basis. In fact, many dogs are too fixated on being near their owners at all times, when they should also be comfortable in their own crate or basket. It is therefore very beneficial to get your dog used to spending some alone time in their own space within the house. Start by having your dog get used to sleeping only in his own bed at night. Over time, your dog will learn that this is a safe and comfortable place to be, and will willingly return on his own. Make this a warm and welcoming area by placing the dog bed next to a comfortable chair where you may sit and spend time together. This way, your dog will not associate this space as an area where he is isolated from the family.
For many owners, it can be very difficult to follow the best practices for forming a healthy relationship with their dog. Certain situations may require a visit with a dog behaviour specialist that can offer advice on how to improve the relationship with your dog. Certain activities, certain methods of playing with your dog, and even certain gestures can help modify your dog’s perception of your relationship, helping to reduce his dependence on you while still maintaining the bond that unites you. For some dogs, the symptoms of separation anxiety may be decreased with the arrival of a new companion, whether it be a stuffed toy or another dog. For others, alone-time can be filled with toys, or with the soothing sounds of a radio or television to fill the silence. A dog bahaviour specialist can help you find the best solution for your pet.