Anxiety can develop in canines at any age. Separation anxiety can lead to negative and even destructive behaviors and will only worsen with time. So it’s important to address any separation anxiety early whether it’s a puppy or a newly rescued adult dog.
Start with a dedicated space for your dog. It could be:
~ A crate or playpen.
~ A small, confined room in the house.
If you rescued a dog with separation anxiety, it will take some time and patience, but the problem can be solved. Please be patient!!
Never see confinement as a negative thing (your dog will pick up on this energy). Dogs are like wolves and see their “den” (i.e., a confined space) as their “safe place” when introduced slowly and properly.
Never use a crate, or any other space, as “punishment.” A crate also offers you peace of mind when you can’t be there that your dog cannot destroy your home. I have seen some horrible home destruction done by a dog.
Resolving K9 Separation Anxiety: Steps One and Two
FIRST, put the crate in an area of the house where the dog cannot see you getting ready or leaving the house. You might also want to use a plastic-covered crate, so the dog does not hurt themselves trying to get out.
Slowly introduce and acclimate your dog to their crate over an extended period of time before leaving them on their own for several hours or all day. The more time you spend on this training phase, the better the results will be for your dog.
In the beginning, let your dog explore the crate on his own leaving the door wide open. Once he is comfortable, put him in the crate with a deer antler or empty marrow bone with a little bit of (xylitol-free) peanut butter in the middle to create a happy and pleasurable association for your dog. Your goal is to get your dog’s attention on the bone instead of the fact you’re leaving him alone. Quietly close the door.
SECOND, go outside for 3–5 minutes (and increasingly longer) then come back in and quietly let them out of the crate. DO NOT say anything, just let the dog out, so they realize that they can be comfortable and happy in the crate. Every dog is different so be patient and work on your dog’s timetable and never force them to accept being confined.
Resolving K9 Separation Anxiety: After Training
Remember, dogs are very perceptive and quickly learn our daily routines. So, before you start getting ready to leave, put your dog in their crate (where they cannot see you) to avoid leaving your dog in a very high state of anxiety from knowing you’re leaving. Many owners misinterpret any accidents as being done on purpose; this is not true. With all the pent-up anxiety and fear, your stressed canine can no longer control its bodily functions. It’s just like a person with a nervous stomach, who cannot help but throw up or have a bowel movement.
If you are a stay-at-home parent or work from home, DO NOT have your dog with you at all times. Encourage your dog to be able to be on their own even if you are home. This is a good thing, no need to feel guilty! If you have the chance to leave the house for a little bit, even if it is for 15 minutes, please do, so your dog will get used to you leaving and coming home. When you do leave and come home, do not make a big deal because that will raise your dog’s anxiety.
K9 Separation Anxiety Begins Early!
I’d like to address something that’s been really bothering me lately. It’s also been a very big problem this year especially with all the new COVID puppies. Many breeders are selling puppies too young. There is no reason why puppies should leave their mom and littermates at less than 8 weeks old. They learn so much from their mother and littermates and this is negatively diminished when they are sold too young.
Not only are many breeders selling puppies too young, but then many are put into a crate and travel long distances in an overwhelming airplane cargo area. This causes major crate anxiety and fear from the loud noises and unknown smells. Then, when they finally land, these poor puppies are typically handled by people who are not gentle or even knowledgeable about these impressionable little creatures. Imagine being traumatized like this at less than 2 months old along with the fact that these puppies are usually covered in pee and feces!
Once traumatized, it is very difficult to fix crate anxiety and separation anxiety because these puppies typically pee and defecate from overwhelming anxiety as soon as they are put in a crate. This is because the confinement now represents a bad and even terrifying experience. Even if you switch to a playpen, which gives them more space, it can still cause major anxiety from what they’ve been through. This early trauma causes issues like:
~ Hurting themselves from trying to bite the cage or dig their way out at the bottom.
~ Unwanted and extreme barking, whining and crying.
~ Extreme shyness and fear making even a simple walk impossible once they hear loud noises.
~ Constant attempts to slip out of their collars from their natural response to flee when afraid.
So when is the ideal age to adopt a new puppy? Between 10-13 weeks.
K9 Separation Anxiety: Obedience Training is Priceless
Obedience training is so important for creating – and maintaining – routines along with daily peace and balance in your household. It establishes you as your dog’s leader and also helps tire out your dog from the mental stimulation of regular dog training sessions.
The best part is that training does not take long when done daily. Even if you work with your dog for just 10-15 minutes before you leave, that’s perfect! Also, take your dog out before you leave and remember to give them a bone in the crate and quietly walk out without making a big deal!
Remember, A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog!
K9 Separation Anxiety: Severe Cases
For severe separation anxiety cases, a Bootcamp program is the only effective training because the dog is separated from the family and stays at a training facility for several weeks. While the dog is being re-trained, the family is also learning how to change some of their own habits before the dog comes home. Remember, K9 anxiety and separation anxiety does not resolve on their own, so reach out for expert help, as soon as possible, for your dog’s overall happiness and well-being!
Meet Our Guest Blogger: Cherie Marquez
Cherie Marquez is The Dog Mystic and gratefully living her dream!
Cherie’s motto is Happy Dogs = Happy Owners and it’s her mission is to keep dogs in their forever home.
The Dog Mystic instructs dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds, and does not discriminate against any K9 breed. Cherie works on problem-solving, commands, and exercises to strengthen your bond with your dog(s) on the soul level, so they will always be family.
You can learn more about Cherie Marquez here: TheDogMystic.com.