Dogs with Separation Anxiety – The 3 biggest mistakes!

Would you

Recognising the signs for

Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Some dog owners don’t even realise their dog is suffering from separation anxiety and instead just think their pooch is badly behaved.   Wrong!

Dogs with separation anxiety is a real condition, which causes your dog immense distress. If you have identified the signs and symptoms in your dog and believe he has separation anxiety, here are the three biggest mistakes owners make without even realising it!

Believe it or not, we actually contribute to our dog’s separation anxiety. Of course we don’t want to leave them alone and hate seeing them distressed or seeing ‘sad face’ before we leave the house. We want to do the best for our beloved pooches yet all our care and concern can actually make our dogs with separation anxiety symptoms worse.

Mistake # 1 

Getting mad at your dog and punishing him

This mistake is usually out of frustration because your dog has ruined your new shoes or ripped those beautiful new cushions on the couch that you just spent a fortune on or you’ve come home from a stressful day at work and there’s a big mess for you to clean up.

Then there is that big happy cute face to greet you when you come home. After all he’s been waiting a long time for you to come home. He doesn’t understand why his mum or dad is mad at him, he’s just happy to see you!Dogs with separation anxiety

There is no lesson to be learned by punishing your dog. He does not know what he has done or that he has even done anything destructive on purpose. You need to catch them in the act before you can correct the behaviour. So unless you see him chewing your new shoes or ripping your new cushions to pieces, you cannot go mad at him or punish him. He doesn’t understand and it will only confuse him and heighten his anxieties. Do you really want to add to your dog’s already anxious state? No of course you don’t!

Remember dogs with separation anxiety related behaviours are NOT the result of disobedience or spite. Your dog is genuinely distressed. He is upset by being left alone and is trying to cope with his stress. By getting mad at him or punishing him will only increase the problem and it will get worse.

What to do instead

Don’t react! Go about cleaning up the mess, put those brand new shoes in the trash and re-stuff your cushions as best you can. Dogs usually ‘know’ they’ve done the wrong thing. The tail between the legs or the ears back is a pretty good indication they know! Just ignore them while you clean up, don’t show anger or look at them or tell them what a ‘bad dog’ they’ve been! After a few minutes, once you’ve calmed down, poured a glass of wine and got over the damage, acknowledge them like nothing happened. At the end of the day – no one got hurt!

Mistake # 2

Making a fuss when leaving or coming home

IMG_1791Dogs pick up on cues when we’re getting ready to leave. Things like putting on shoes or picking up your car keys. This is when their anxiety starts.

We don’t want to leave our dogs when we know they’re going to be stressed and dogs can sense our own anxiety about leaving them. This makes their own fears worse. We don’t like leaving them at home and often make the mistake of over compensating for it by making a fuss before we leave. This is usually by way of saying long farewells and telling them we wont be long, lots of pats, stroking, or belly rubs. Whichever it is, we’re only exacerbating their anxieties and fears of being left alone.

Dogs think they are our protectors; they need to watch over us and keep us safe. This is extremely comforting when we’re out walking at night or alert us to strange noises when we’re at home. So, when we leave the house, they can’t protect us when we’re gone and then they worry until we return safely.

They are super excited to see us and act as though they haven’t seen us in years. This is a huge sense of relief for them that we have returned to them and are safe.   This leads to another common mistake we make which is making a huge fuss when we get home. It’s easy to mirror their excitement, as we too are as excited to see them, as they are to see us. Afterall who doesn’t love coming home to a big smiley face and a waggly bum?

What to do instead

Don’t make a fuss before leaving. We need to be able to treat leaving the house as a normal occurrence and not make a big deal out of it.Dogs with separation anxiety

I wouldn’t say ignore them, but definitely tone your departure down. Give them a pat, turn and walk away.

There are a number of desensitising techniques you can apply. Practice leaving just for a minute or two at a time and gradually build the time up until your dog doesn’t seem bothered by your leaving.

When coming home, firstly don’t react to any mischief he’s been up to. It’s ok to be excited to see your dog too, give him a pat and say hello but only for a few seconds, don’t overdo it. Go about your business and ignore him for a few minutes, this will give him a chance to calm down.

Mistake #3

Getting another dog

This is a fairly common mistake people make when trying to cope with a dog with separation anxiety. Thinking another dog will keep him company and less anxious when you’re not home? Wrong!

The problem is, your dog only wants you. Yes, adopting a second dog will definitely be company for your beloved pooch, but it will not alleviate your dog’s separation anxiety for you!

In fact, it could actually have the opposite effect and give you double trouble! In some cases, both dogs could have separation anxiety feeding off each other’s anxieties.

There is a lot to consider when looking at this option as a mate for your dog. It is not a decision to be made lightly. Do you adopt an adult dog from a shelter or get a puppy? The difference between an adult dog and a puppy bring a different set of potential problems.

An adult dog will have his own personality with his own antics, behaviours and possible fears and anxieties, depending on his background and where he has come from. Was he abused or neglected in his former home? If the answer is yes, then he will probably have his own set of fears and anxieties.

Dogs with Separation AnxietyA puppy on the other hand brings along innocence in the form of a big ball of cuteness, but no manners. Puppies require training from an early age to learn accepted behaviours, but will require a lot of patience. Depending on the breed and temperament of the puppy, he may end up copying your other dogs fears and anxieties leaving you with two dogs with separation anxiety.

An important consideration is the temperament of your dog and the potential new dog. Not all dogs get along just like we don’t always like everyone we meet. On one hand they could be great company for each other and play all day, or on the other hand, they could fight all day, causing injury and stress for not only you but the dogs as well. You would not want to have to re-home the adopted dog. This is often a sad scenario that rescue dogs encounter.

There have been some successful cases where a second dog improved the first dog’s anxieties immensely.

But remember, this option on its own may not cure a dog with separation anxiety.   Unless you particularly want a second dog, do your research but it’s not recommended getting a second dog just for the purpose of curing separation anxiety.

Leaving your dog home alone is sometimes unavoidable. Using techniques to alleviate their anxieties and knowing they are happy and relaxed when you are not home will reduce everyone’s stress levels.

The goal is to resolve your dogs underlying anxieties by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone.

Treating a Dog with Separation Anxiety

If you think you have a dog with separation anxiety, you will need patience and a good dog separation anxiety training program. Trust between you and your dog is the most important tool you will need before you embark on any training program.



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