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Separation Anxiety: 5 Steps/Ideas to Consider

Separation Anxiety: 5 Steps/Ideas to Consider

A small dog laying down inside his crate

Separation anxiety is a popular topic when it comes to dog training, or raising a dog in general. I would be lying if I said that it's a behaviour that I find easy to tackle, especially as each case is different from the one before it. Whether it's due to the dog's age and for long the behaviour has been going on, or sometimes purely due to the dog's natural demeanour and personality.


But before worrying about the possibility of separation anxiety in your new dog, or addressing it in your current dog, here are a few things to consider.


To help prevent separation anxiety:


1. Make sure you're consistent with your dog's physical, mental and social enrichment outlets. A change, decrease or lack of consistency in these outlets can trigger different behavioural concerns, including anxiety as a whole. A dog who feels fulfilled, happy and mellow due to activities you do together is one that's more likely to react relatively calmly, to different situations.


Has your dog practiced showing independence?


2. If your dog often feels the need to be really close to you, even when tired, you will want to go out of your way to slowly build and reinforce instances where your dog happens to give you space. Even if it's something as small as being in another room for a few minutes, to start. If your dog has a really tough time taking time and space apart from you when you're both home, try a different setting where doing so is a little easier for him, like during group play sessions or playdates.


"The first step to correcting a mistake is patience."

Are you using a crate or another small/restrictive area?


3. I am all in for crate training, however, crate training is the most successful with a dog that is already okay with being apart from you to some extent. Each dog is different but for a lot of them, being asked to be away from you AND in a small confined space can be a lot to handle at once. Work your way up, and until you're both ready, consider alternatives like dog sitting/boarding.


Slow and steady always wins the race.


4. Whether you've worked your way up to having your dog stay comfortable on the crate, or free inside your home, if you want to leave you will need to start doing so gradually. Walk in and out randomly and for a few moments. Head out and come back in without saying or doing anything out of the ordinary. The less your dog feels a difference with you there vs away, the easier it'll be for him to adjust to the change.


If your dog cries after you've walked out for 2 minutes, practice walking out and back in after 1 minute, and then 1 minute and 10 seconds, and 20 seconds, etc.


Only practice makes perfect.


5. Continue practicing the slow increase in time apart, so that your dog can continue letting you know what he can handle. Separation is something that's not natural for most dogs, being as social as they are. But this doesn't mean it can't be trained, and at any age. In instances where you have no choice but to head out for a long period of time that you know your dog can't handle your best option is to have someone else be with your dog at your home or theirs.


Separation Anxiety isn't easy.


Tackling anxiety in general takes a lot of work. The important thing to remember is that our dogs need guidance, patience and understanding while they do their very best to make us happy and figure out the world around them!

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