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What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety is shown when a dog reacts to being left alone with significant distress, which can include behaviors like:

  • Vocalizing in the form of barking, screaming, whining, or crying.
  • Chewing and destruction, sometimes even to the point where they injure themselves.
  • Urinating or defecating when they’re normally housetrained.

There are also many other causes for these behaviors, and we spend some of our time making sure we’re addressing the right cause! Other causes can include:

  • Confinement stress: Many dogs who have Separation Anxiety also have this, too. (And that means we might want to work on both!)
  • Boredom and looking for fun: Some dogs are destructive due to this, rather than stress!
  • Incomplete housetraining: Can explain why some dogs have accidents when left alone.

What Causes It?

So many factors can contribute to Separation Anxiety! This can include your dog’s genetics, early life experiences, and more. Separation anxiety symptoms often start after events like a change in your routine, moving to a new home, after a vacation, alongside another new fear or phobia that’s developed, or with medical and age changes. This doesn’t mean that this event alone caused your dog’s anxiety, just that the potential for anxiety was already there and this event happened to bring it out.

What Does a Behavior Plan for Separation Anxiety Look Like?

  1. Manage your dog’s world to prevent or reduce practice of the unwanted behavior and feelings. Great management is critical to success for Separation Anxiety.
  2. Practice Training Games like Barrier Confidence exercises, if they’ve been recommended for your dog, before you start Step 3.
  3. Have regular Practice Departures to help your dog start to feel better and better about being left alone!

While you’re training, it’s also important to:

  • Address any health concerns that might be affecting your dog’s behaviors.
  • Talk to your vet about behavior medications or supplements if you think that your dog might benefit from these.
  • Meet your dogs’ daily needs through enrichment and exercise.
  • Remember, your dog needs to go to Middle and High School before he can do College level work. (Check out our short article on Training Steps!)

 

What Does Success Look Like?

Clear improvement in your dog’s separation anxiety and way less stress for you both! This can mean:

  • Your dog is able to be behind a barrier with you home but not interacting, and feel okay! (Like behind a gate or a door.)
  • Your dog can be left home alone with significantly less distress.
  • Your dog recovers faster and easier after departures.
  • You feel more confident about reading your dog’s body language and what to do when things go right, as well as how to help when it’s too much for your pup.

If you haven’t already, please check out these two short articles that can help you better understand what to expect:

Behavior Program Expectations

How much will my dog improve?

 

What Do I Need to Do?

We’ll give you the tools and know-how to help your dog. Your role for your dog is:
  1. To carry out the behavior plan. While we wish we could wave a magic wand and help your dog just within our sessions, behavior change takes time and practice. Your dog’s behaviors won’t change unless your behaviors do. And they won’t be consistent unless you are. We’ll help you find ways to maximize your success and fit training into your lifestyle.
  2. To let us know if you have questions, concerns, or struggles. We want more joy and less stress for both you and your dog! Email us so we can help you both out ASAP 🙂 Timely, honest communication helps us do our best for you.
We’re here to help you succeed, and we’re always rooting for you and your dog!