How to deal with a dog that has separation anxiety

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Separation anxiety in dogs is very common and, more often than not, the owner is the cause behind it. Find out how to help your furry friend suffer less when left home alone.

Too much love can backfire

Believe it or not, giving your dog too much attention and love can actually be harmful. We understand and relate to the excitement and desire of wanting to spend as much time as possible with your dog, but, as hard as it may be; allow your dog to get accustomed to being alone. We’re not encouraging you to neglect your dog, in any way, but a some space and time apart are fundamental.

A bored dog is a destructive dog

Boredom is one of the main reasons dogs are destructive. If your dog has a lot of energy, and is left alone in a place full of suitable items to dig their teeth in, expect to find a mutilated sofa upon your return. Take your dog out for a long walk before you leave them alone, or play fetch in the house if you have enough space. If you let your pet run out of energy – chances are; when left alone, they’ll fall in a deep slumber.

If physical activity isn’t enough to keep your dog calm, when you’re away, you’ll probably want to consider purchasing (or building) toys that are specifically designed to stimulate dogs’ senses. Fill a box with dry food or treats, seal it and then pierce some small holes (big enough to allow food to seep through, at a time) – the aim of this contraption is to have your dog figure out how to get the food out. This trick is bound to keep your dog busy for some hours.

The yo-yo exercise

Just like kids, dogs need to be reassured. Every time you leave your anxious dog alone, they think you’re abandoning them. You need to reassure your pet that you will always come back to them. The best way to do so, is to slowly build up to the time frame you intend to leave your dog alone for.

Start off by leaving your pet in their designated area for five minutes, and then return to them. Act happy when you return, perhaps offer a treat, but don’t seem overly excited – you want your dog to understand that time apart from each other is normal and will be part of their everyday routine. Slowly start increasing the time apart, until you reach the time desired.

Remember that puppies don’t do too well when left unsupervised for long periods of time, due to their potty needs and teething. So don’t expect to leave your puppy alone for six hours straight.

Create a safe environment

Whether it’s a crate, a kennel or a specific area of the house, you want to make sure to create a space where your dog feels safe when alone. The place needs to be comfortable and cosy enough for him to feel cuddled, but also big enough for him to be able to stretch and stand comfortably. A lot of people believe that crate training is cruel, but if done the right way – without malicious intent –  it can become your dog’s favourite spot.

Doggy proof the place

Doggy proofing is essential if your dog suffers from separation anxiety. Remove anything that is within your pet’s reach (keep in mind that dogs can jump high). To avoid them chewing on furniture, mix some water with white vinegar and spray the mixture on the surfaces you want to repel your dog from – the bitter taste will keep your pup at bay.

Turn time alone into a fun experience

Ultimately, your aim is to let your dog run around the house freely when you’re not there and avoid and destruction. To your furry friend, time alone is a heartbreaking experience, because they love you dearly.

Your task is to change that ‘negative’ experience into something positive. Reserve your pet’s favourite food and treats for when you’re gone, and allow them to play with their cherished toy whenever you’re not around. That way, your dog will associate your absence to a positive experience.

Speak to your vet

If the problem persists and the crying doesn’t stop, your dog may need medication. Pay a visit to one of the many veterinarians on the island.

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