Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Dogs
- 5 Pro Tips -
Learn from our resident Dog Training & Behaviour Consultant - Kerry Woods
- Out Of The Woods Dog Training -
Does your dog cry, bark, howl, destroy or have accidents when home alone? If the answer is yes, they might have Separation Anxiety.
Having a dog with Separation Anxiety can be overwhelming, isolating and extremely frustrating. There is a whole lot of conflicting information on the internet about Separation Anxiety, which might leave you confused about the best way to help your dog feel better. But the good news is that there is a way!
Kerry Woods is a Separation Anxiety specialist and below she shares
5 tips to help your dog feel happier at home.
1. Suspend Absences
The first step in any effective training plan is management. This means preventing your dog from being exposed to the ‘scary thing’, whilst working on a training plan. In Separation Anxiety terms, this means not leaving your dog alone for longer than they can cope with. This might sound extreme, but continued exposure to scary alone time will make it impossible to teach your dog that being alone is, in fact, safe.
But just because your dog can’t be alone, it doesn’t mean you can’t leave the house. There are many alternatives to leaving your dog alone, and my favourite management strategies are free. I highly recommend reaching out to your family, friends and local community for support. Whilst you might not work from home, there will be a dog lover nearby that does. Students and retirees are also a great option, and can be a low cost alternative to day care, pet sitters or dog walkers.
"Despite what you might have heard, neither are helpful for Separation Anxiety training."
2. Become an Expert in Your Dog's Body Language
Once you have suspended absences, it’s time to become an expert in your dog’s body language. An effective Separation Anxiety training plan involves keeping your dog under threshold (non-anxious) at all times. Becoming fluent in your dog’s body language will allow you to spot the early signs of anxiety, and return before your dog starts to panic.
You’ll need a camera system set up so you can observe your dog’s body language during sessions. Indoor security cameras are great for this, or you could set up a video call between two devices to observe your dog whilst you are out.
3 - Ditch the Food Toys & the Crate
The two biggest myths about Separation Anxiety training are the role of crates and the role of food toys. Despite what you might have heard, neither are helpful for Separation Anxiety training.
Food toys might provide a temporary distraction for limited amounts of time, but they cannot change how your dog feels about being alone. And the vast majority of dogs with Separation Anxiety do better out of the crate. I recommend giving your dog access to as much space as possible, and to train your dog without any food distractions.
4 - Gradual Exposure Training
So if food toys and crates aren’t the cure for Separation Anxiety, then what is? The answer is Gradual Exposure.
Gradual Exposure involves exposing your dog to tiny amounts of alone time, and very gradually building this up over time as your dog’s association with alone time changes from scary to safe. The key to success is ensuring that your dog remains ‘under threshold’ (non-anxious) at all times. To get started, you need to find a version of alone time that your dog is comfortable with now - this might be seconds, or you may need to start with some door desensitisation before you start leaving for any duration.
5 - Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Separation Anxiety training is simple, but it isn’t easy. Don’t wait until you’re drowning to ask for help.
If you’re looking for help with your dog’s Separation Anxiety, contact a specialist (rather than a general dog trainer/behaviourist). Qualified specialists will have either the designation Cert. SAPT or CSAT. Separation Anxiety is a very niche area of dog behaviour, and working with a specialist is your dog’s best chance of success. The best Separation Anxiety training is done online, meaning that location isn’t a limiting factor when getting help for your dog.
If you are looking for support with your dog’s Separation Anxiety, I’d love to help. I offer 121 training programmes for dogs who struggle to be home alone, which are available worldwide.
Learn more from Kerry by following her on social media or head over to her website below
Kerry is a Dog Training & Behaviour Consultant and is here to provide tips, tricks and information on all things dogs!Kerry has a degree in Animal Behaviour & Welfare as well as being a certified Separation Anxiety Pro Trainer. After working with hearing dogs for deaf people for 3 years and gaining experience working with dogs from 8 weeks old right the way through to placement Kerry now works as a dog training and behaviourist consultant specialising in Separation Anxiety.Learn More
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