Separation anxiety can be defined as an increased fearfulness of your dog after the departure of the owner. When the pet owner leaves for work for example, anxious dogs might bark or howl, have bowel or bladder accidents, they may begin to destroy things. For dogs that form an intense attachment to their owners (such as Labradors), are more likely candidates for separation anxiety.
You can start preventing separation anxiety even before you get your puppy. First of all, do not take the puppy away from its mother until it is 8 weeks old. There seem to be a greater likelihood that your dog will develop separation anxiety if it is taken any earlier.
Anti separation anxiety training can begin when you first bring your puppy home. When you leave your pet, don't make a big deal about leaving. Don't prolong your departure by talking to them a lot and arousing their anxiety. Leave them for short periods initially. When you come back, again, don't make it a big deal, just go on with your usual routine.
If your dog already has unwanted separation behavior, training may be more difficult but is definitely worth your effort. A high percentage of older dogs with separation anxiety tend to have been shelter dogs or strays at some point in their life. Up to half of these dogs will improve with training, but you may need to modify your routine to desensitize them to your leaving. Dogs quickly learn your routine. You dog will be able to figure out your routine in a very short time.
Dogs who show signs of separation anxiety need your effort in assessing their situation and eliminate cues. As with puppy training, don't make a big deal out of leaving. Desensitize the dogs by leaving for a short time and gradually work up to longer periods.
Another approach is to leave something to distract your pet. Video studies have shown that separation anxiety behavior usually occurs within 10 to 30 minutes of your departure; after that, dogs calm down. Kong toys make good distractions. Kongs are hollow rubber cone shaped toys. You can fill the center with kibble or cheese. It takes the dog awhile to get to the treat, and meanwhile they are distracted from their separation and therefore their anxiety.
Crate training is another good option. If your dog is showing destructive behavior have a crate for them, so they know that this is their home when you are not around. Feed them in their crate, but never punish them by putting them into their crate if they are bad. This will help you dog to associate their crate with positive things, like food and sleep. When you feel comfortable that your dog will not abe destructive in your absence, try leaving them for a short while in the house alone, but have the crate door open so they can go inside and feel "safe" if they need to.
Dogs tend to be den animals, and the crate is a place they can call their own. If you crate from an early age, you always use the crate as a positive experience, and you have a crate large enough for the dog to comfortably stand, turn around, and lie down, then crates can be a great training tool. Crates can also give you peace of mind that your dog isn't able to destroy something or potentially injure themself while you're gone.
Seek out a veterinarian or professional trainer for other training ideas, but remember that because of the circumstances when separation anxiety arises, most of the training will require changes in your own behavior. It's not something a trainer can do for you. Veterinary prescribed drugs are an option as well, but try training first.
Dogs And Separation Anxiety
by Mark Woodcock
Article by www.1fleacontrol.com.