How do I stop separation anxiety in my dog?

Separation anxiety in dogs is actually pretty common. Dogs will bond with people very easily, and often they get very attached to a specific person or persons. This means that when that person is away, either at work or on vacation, the dog will act up. It becomes very distraught and anxious at not being around its owner, and will behave very destructively. This behavior can include tearing things up around the house, trying to escape, whining, barking excessively, or even self-mutilation.

   

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The first thing you should do if you suspect that your dog has this is to consult your vet. It's important to get a proper diagnosis, because destructive behavior like that could be a result of something else. You want to make sure that the dog isn't sick and make sure that your vet goes through everything with you.

Second, choose between training for separation anxiety and medication for it. There are medicines your vet can give you that will calm the dog down as you're away. In the long run, though, training is your best bet. However, medication can be good if your dog is doing something extremely destructive and you need to make sure that it stops until training succeeds.

You should do a couple of things. The training process will mainly consist of getting your dog used to being alone. Set up a "safe area" - a room or fenced off area with toys, water, food, and bedding. Using an old comforter or sheets for the dog's bed is a good idea as well - it will smell like you, and the dog will in many cases be comforted by that.

Also exercise your dog regularly. A lot of times this is at least part of the cause - dogs that don't get regular exercise are more hyperactive and much more prone to damage things while they're alone. Exercise your dog for at least an hour a day. Try to do it in unfamiliar places - go on walks on random routes, etc. This will make your dog more comfortable with the unfamiliar, which can help with its feelings when it's alone.

Finally, start training your dog by leaving it alone for short periods of several minutes. Mimic your morning routine - take the keys or briefcase or whatever with you and leave out the door. Do this a couple of times a day and gradually increase the time period. Eventually, your dog should get more comfortable with the idea that you're gone and get used to the idea that you're coming back.

One other option you might look into is to play home videos while you're gone. The sound of your voice on the TV may calm the dog, and it has worked with some dogs. It's something to try, but it may not be a cure all.

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