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What To Do About Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

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when their people leave them alone

separation anxiety can be difficult to

define because we're trying to figure

out how a dog is feeling and since dogs

can't tell us how they're feeling we're

left to interpret that leaves a lot of

room for error how do you do your best

to determine if your dog has separation


well my experienced dogs with this issue

will typically follow you around

everywhere or wine or frantically bark

when you're out of reach see excessive

repetitive barking whining and pacing

seems to have a way of calming many dogs

when they're anxious they may also have

some involuntary physiological responses

like dilated pupils are drooling or

panting or even sweaty paws for your

paws sweaty no they may often attempt to

break out of their confinement to

concentrate their destructive chewing or


a viewer at exits and windows and in

extreme cases they don't really care if

you leave a toy like this or a bone

stuffed with peanut butter behind and

you might notice increased rates of

potty accidents too and it's even

probable that many dogs are predisposed

to separation anxiety I mean think about

it we selectively bred them to interact

just with us whether that be for

companionship or for a working

partnership and it's hard to fault our

dogs for wanting to be with us all the

time that probably means that you have a

wonderful bond with them and that is so

important understand though that just

because your dog barks chews things or

has potty accidents when you're away

does not mean that he necessarily has

separation anxiety that actually is very

common with puppies but it's also a sign

of anxiety with many dogs as well but

for whatever reason he's anxious maybe

he's looking for his dad maybe he's just

more a majority of dogs who do these

things they're just bored or if not

properly house trained yet if your dog

is under five months old much like puppy

is over here your dog is probably

meeting a lot of the symptoms that I've

gone over so far but this is really

normal for puppies and you want to do

your best to avoid having them spend too

much time alone at that age anyway

a study in the Journal of the AVMA was

designed to look at risk factors and

behaviors associated with separation

anxiety and had some pretty interesting

results the study looked at records from

the Tufts University School of

Veterinary Medicine behavior clinic of

400 dogs 200 of them had pre identified

separation anxiety defined in this study

as showing signs including destruction

and appropriate elimination or excessive

vocalization that occurred only when

their person was absent and 200 control

dogs dogs that acted hyper attached you

know by following their people around

excessively or starting to get anxious

when they noticed a portrait cues like

putting on shoes or getting keys and

getting excessively excited to greet you

upon return were significantly

associated with separation anxiety many

have wondered including myself if the

dog being separated from their mom at a

young age might contribute towards some

having separation anxiety that

hypothesis however was not supported by

this study most often resolving

separation anxiety comes down to making

sure your dog is getting plenty of

mental and physical stimulation along

with preparing them for being alone

ahead of time

long term as most dogs mature and

to our way of life they tend to get more

comfortable when you leave them alone

but if you want to speed up that process

exercise them regularly a study in the

journal PLoS ONE found that the largest

environmental factor significantly

associated with separation anxiety was

the amount of daily exercise a dog

received see if your dog has a serious

physical outlet they're a lot more

likely to just chill when you're gone

giving your dog a proper outlet for

their excess energy just before you

leave them alone maybe all you need to

do for immediate relief dogs are

incredibly smart and they have a way of

picking up on those very subtle cues

that indicate that they're about to be

left alone focus on identifying that

first trigger that really Clues them in

that you're getting ready to leave

routine is underway once you identify

these early cues you want to start to

condition your dog to look forward to

these events so instead of oh no you're

leaving we want oh boy I get something I

want I'm gonna pick these up jiggle them

so we're trying to get him to associate

the sound of the keys with getting a

good tree drop them and look at it he's

automatically looking at me so it looks

like he's already starting to make that

Association once you've done this

exercise for a few minutes you might

then want to start doing something

that's a little more realistic maybe

your keys are on your table like this

yes it's important to do these when

you're not completely focused on your

dog so when you're just chilling out

watching TV or whatever pick up the keys

jingle them give your dog a treat now

I'm gonna pick them up a little more

realistically just toss them down you

pick up your keys frequently when you're

not actually going to leave and you

provide a good consequence your dog

isn't going to associate the keys with

you leaving every time and so once

they're getting that then you might pick

up your keys walk towards the door and

then just walk back over here right see

sometimes you might do that it doesn't

mean you're gonna leave every time these

are the kind of exercises you do really

early on in the training process that

are very short-term and just start to

give you a little bit of traction and

even if your dog isn't anxious you

should still do exercises just like this

to keep these problems from arising in

the first place maybe your dog tends to

figure out that when you put on your

jacket that you're about to go somewhere

sometimes when I put on my jacket I just

sit down and hang out this is how you

get them feeling good about you picking

up your keys or putting on your jacket

or your shoe

or whatever so if your dog associates

your going to work routine with getting

something great and you don't always

leave then you're well on your way to

reducing their anxiety oh looks like you

got a little anxious that time there so

I left him alone a little bit too long I

want to get back in there before that

barking and that anxiety really rises to

the surface since many dogs with

separation anxiety especially the

extreme separation anxiety aren't gonna

be very accepting of a bone even if it's

filled with peanut butter when you leave

you've got a condition your dog to like

these ahead of time and the way to do

that is to introduce this to them in

moments when they are not anxious like

right now and so you might do things

like tickle the keys give them a bone

one way to measure success is that he

continues to engage with this bone while

I'm out of the room for a moment

oh no look at that isn't that

interesting he stopped so that might be

a sign that he's a little anxious

because we know he loves that peanut

butter inside there I'm gonna kind of

spy on him so right there he's realized

that I'm gone I saw him glance up but

that's all right he went right back to

the bone so this is a sign that he's

comfortable and he's content I'm gonna

come back in before he starts barking

and doing all those other things that

dogs with separation anxiety do and let

your dog enjoy the bone for short

periods of time throughout the day and

do this really often the next thing

you'll want to do is get your dog really

comfortable with spending some time

alone in the area where you're gonna

leave them when you do eventually leave

but keep in mind dogs with extreme

separation anxiety don't do very well

and crates most of the time instead dog

poop a part of your house where your dog

can't really do any damage and where you

can tolerate accidents put them in that

area and then let them out before they

become anxious that way they slowly get

comfortable with being in that area and

in the beginning you might just do this

literally have them alone for seconds at

a time

see by easing your dog in to this whole

idea of being alone we're trying to make

it easier for them to accept us being

gone for longer and longer periods of

time to come back in gonna pick up the

bone right here hey you did a good job

and I'm gonna put the bone up so now

he's gonna look forward to that bone the

next time it comes out hopefully they

don't get me wrong this is easier said

than done

because you have to do these things

consistently over a period of weeks for

most dogs try to keep these home alone

toys like this special so that your dog

only has them when they're actually home

alone or when you're doing training

sessions like we're covering today now

if your dog does destroy something while

you're away or otherwise that's not

their fault it's your job to control the

environment so don't punish them for

that your dog seems unusually anxious or

this behavior is new you may want to

talk to your vet about a potential

underlying medical issue too don't rush

and be prepared to take a step back as

necessary only you are gonna know when

the time is right to let your dog have

the general run of the house this

process can take a few months in some

cases and you may never be able to

completely cure your dog separation

anxiety in extreme situations but you

can almost certainly reduce it over time

if you implement the tips we covered

today in the meantime while you're

working through this it's a good idea to

find alternatives to leaving your dog

alone like having a friend or relatives

spend some time with your dog our

sponsor Rover can make that very easy

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