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How to help separation anxiety in dogs

Dogs displaying unwanted behaviours when left alone is both a common issue and a common cause for them to be rehomed.

Separation-Related Distress

Dogs may display destructive behaviour when left, they may bark and howl or toilet in the home. Sometimes this occurs due to people simply having unrealistic expectations for their dogs and leaving them far too long and too often.

More often though, owners reaching out for help with these issues only want to be able to leave their dog for a few hours at a time, but currently cannot leave them at all without it being a stressful experience for everyone.

Dogs are highly social animals

So, it is therefore not surprising they like to spend time with their family. Puppies also are often brought home at a young age where they are not yet ready to be left alone. Human babies will naturally need to remain close to their caregiver, young puppies are no different. Ideally what happens is that as the puppy start to mature, they become more independent and spend more time alone. This then allows the family the opportunity to start introducing being left for short periods, gradually building up the time as the dog reaches adolescence. For some, though, they never manage to be alone without become distressed. The more times they are left and find it distressing, the worse the behaviour will become, and the harder it will be to improve.

There are multiple reasons why dogs do not like being left at home

For some it may be primarily about being alone, for others it may be more about the physical barriers and confinement. Some dogs cannot cope without the support of their owners, others become bored, some simply have never had any positive experience of being left alone.

How to help your dog with separation anxiety

The best thing you can do to help a dog who struggles being left is to leave them as little as possible. They need to start creating new experiences of being confined, and left, which are different to those they have had previously. A behaviour professional can help guide you through how to start creating these more positive feelings, but it is nearly impossible if the dog is also becoming distressed about being left regularly. Whilst waiting to have an appointment with a behaviourist I would suggest setting up a camera so you can see what happens when you do have to leave you dog. This will also be helpful to see how they are coping when you start leaving during your training. Just because they aren’t causing damage or disturbing the neighbours, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily happy. Being able to actually see them is super helpful.

By Behaviourist, Sophie White

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