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Relieve your Dog's Separation Anxiety: The Nature of the Beast

Relieve your Dog's Separation Anxiety: The Nature of the Beast

Separation anxiety isn’t just a doggie disorder: it’s an instinctual canine behavior. Dogs have a complete social network, much like humans. Just like humans can feel lonely when isolated, so can dogs. It’s in our inherent nature to want to be with others. Your four-legged family member feels the same when he’s left alone. The good news is you can relieve your dog's separation anxiety.

Dogs are genetically designed as pack animals. They maneuver much like a human family. They establish their place in the pack, they abide by the rules, and they are happy to do it. In nature, the wolf-pack is rarely broken up. This ensures safety and strength in the numbers. When a Wolf becomes separated from the pack, the wolves call out to each other so they can pull the pack back together again. The genetic makeup of the wolf tells them it’s not good to be alone. They need the protection of the pack. Your dog could be experiencing some of the genetics passed down from his ancestors. Your dog is a pack animal and they see you and your family as their pack. To them, being alone is not good.

When you leave a dog home alone during the day it can become lonely, panicked, or anxious. Over time this can lead to doggie depression and other forms of separation anxiety. To relieve tension your dog might chew furniture, bark nonstop, have accidents in the house, or create havoc in a number of ‘bad dog’ ways. As Scooby-doo would say “Ruh-Roh.” There are many ways to identify an issue your dog may be having due to separation anxiety. The fact is they are not bad dogs. They are simply attuned to their inherent needs, some more so than others. What is natural to them can be an extreme annoyance to us. So what can you do to relieve your dog's separation anxiety?

Doggy daycare is the best way to relieve your dog's separation anxiety. This creates a substitute pack and illuminates the feeling of isolation. Not only does Doggy daycare relieve your dog's separation anxiety, but it also teaches social skills. As your dog learns to socialize with other dogs, they adapt better skill sets and feel less anxious. Not to mention they play all day, releasing any pent-up energy. Most times, when daycare dogs get home at the end of the day, they just want to nap. Daycare teaches them to be less reliant on you and helps release anxious energy.

If doggy daycare isn’t an option perhaps a friend or family member can help fill in. Think playdates. Playdates with family and friends that also have furry family members are the best fit. Again your dog is learning important social skill sets. If a playdate isn’t an option, hire a dog walker. This breaks up the hours your dog is isolated and helps the dog to relieve pent-up energy. Trying to find ways to socialize your dog while you can’t be home helps to relieve your dog's separation anxiety.

If interaction with other people and their dogs is not a workable option, or perhaps only limited, then there are training techniques you can implement. Create a routine before you leave. This initiates a pattern your dog will recognize and elevates abrupt actions, which trigger anxiety. The best addition to your ritual should involve exercising your dog. If you have time, a walk works great. If not perhaps a game of catch. Try any exercise that tires your dog out a bit. If your dog is crate-trained, direct them into the crate after exercise and before you leave. Your dog's crate should be a safe place. A well-trained dog will use the crate of their own free will. Putting your dog in its crate before you leave should be a safe space, and calm your dog. You don’t have to close the crate if you don’t want your dog crated the entire time you're gone. Before you go, turn the tv on or play music. This creates the sense that your dog is not alone. Try to incorporate the TV or music with the crate. Almost like storytime does for a child before bed. Cesar Milan offers a training program using an audible book and a Bluetooth speaker. For more details on the method read the article, Eliminate Separation Anxiety with an Audible Book. Creating a ritual before leaving relieves your dog's separation anxiety.

So there you have a few techniques to try. Creating these habits work best when you start at the puppy level. But even the old adage, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" stands to be debated. We always recommend socialization because dogs are inherent pack animals. They love being part of a group. But if socialization isn't an option there are other techniques to try. Remember, they are not bad dogs. They just need to learn being separated from the pack isn't worth being anxious over. Their pack will return and life will go on with wagging tails and lots of love.


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