Here’s How To Train A Dog With Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety has now become a more common phrase and like other common phrases, it could use some clarification.
A dog suffering from separation anxiety is different from one who follows you around at home, or a dog that gets upset when you leave, but relaxes soon.
I’ve seen cases where a dog with separation anxiety scratch at the door for hours, or howls and barks throughout the entire time. I’ve even seen cases where the dog pees and poops out of fear or stress of being left alone. They are in a true state of panic. And it is our responsibility to ease that fear and stress.
Find the threshold
It’s important to understand what’s the threshold for your dog. For some it may be 5 minutes, for others it can be the moment you step out of the door. Every dog is a unique individual.
For example, if your dog starts panicking after 10 seconds of you getting out of the door, then that’s where the training needs to start. Anything more than that and your dog would have already entered into panic mode.
You can use a tablet or laptop and use Skype or any other webcam tool to figure out what’s the threshold for your dog. Setup the camera, take a note of when you leave and watch for circling, pacing, barking, digging, scratching, peeing, pooping and other indicators of discomfort.
Desensitize but gradually
Once you’ve found out your dog’s threshold, you can start the training to slowly desensitize them of your absence. Here are a few ways you can begin the training –
- Walk to the door, open it a bit but don’t step out. Close the door and walk away.
- Walk to the door, step outside and close the door. Immediately come back in.
- Walk to the door, turn the handle but don’t step out. Return back
Between each of these steps you can give a short pause for about a minute or two and do things that you’d normally do. During these pauses, make sure you don’t be over affectionate with your dog. You don’t want to not give attention but don’t overdo it either. Just be normal.
Part of the desensitizing also includes making sure they are comfortable with the little things you do before you walk out of the door – putting on shoes, picking up keys, getting dressed, etc.
Make sure you include one of such cues into your daily training. You may want to avoid including too many cues together until you have had sufficient time training with one cue.
Go slow. Remember this is a gradual process and will require your time and patience. You have to move at your dog’s pace. Here are a few essential things to remember as you move forward with their training –
- Make sure there are enough breaks. Take at least one day off in a week to keep both your dog and yourself sane.
- This is a high stress training. Make sure you have lots of patience and don’t ask too much from your dog. 30 minutes of training is what I find most effective, but it may vary for you.
- Be sure to practice at different times in the day. If you stick to just one time of the day for training, your dog may misunderstand the principle that it applies to anytime of the day.
- If you’re living with multiple people in the house, make sure everyone participates. Else your dog will associate with only you and will return back to the state of panic when any other member leaves the house.
Be patient and stick to your training. Remember that your dog needs your help the most to calm down their fear. In doing so, the bond that you share with your dog not only becomes stronger, but you both will end up having a much more fulfilling life. Happy training 🙂