One of the most common dog dilemmas is separation anxiety and it can be difficult to fix  since it happens when you and your dog are separated! If your dog exhibits any behavior like whining or barking, or she shows signs of destruction like eating the walls, chewing on the door handle, or even getting into the refrigerator, this acticle is for you!

Before we get to the proactive measures you can take, first let’s talk about the no-no’s. Separation anxiety is due to an excessive amount of energy and training. Some owners have unconsciously trained their dog to be anxious by being anxious themselves! When you prepare to leave your dog, do NOT touch, talk, or make eye contact. Promote calmness by being calm and leaving calmly. Do not under any situation say things like “Bye, Buddy, Mama’s coming home soon, be a good boy, don’t get into trouble!” The tone of your voice and the energy in which you are saying these things are actually promoting excitement and telling your dog that something is wrong about the situation in which you are placing her. By doing this you are actually promoting separation anxiety in your pooch! Similarly, the way you enter the house when you arrive back home says a lot to your dog. Again, no touch, talk, or eye contact communicates to your dog that there is nothing to be excited about; that you entering and leaving the house are nothing to bat an eyelash over. If you enter with calmness your dog will learn to be calm when you enter as well. Some owners are unwilling to take this step because they love when their dog welcomes them with a crazy level of excitement or energy, but I ask you to be unselfish for the well-being of your pet and communicate calmness. (This is especially important if you have small children or the elderly vising often since a heightened level of excitement in your dog can cause real problems to your guests)

So now that you know what not to do, let’s talk about some of the positive things you can do…

1) Exercise your dog before you leave the house. It is my opinion that when I am not at home, my dogs should be sleeping.

2) Give your dog things to do while you are gone. Interactive dog toys, filling a Kong with peanut butter, hiding treats around the house, turning on some music, etc can all help give your dog a job when you are gone.

3) If your dog is an escape artist and has managed to get out of typical dog crates, you could consider investing in an indestructible crate. It comes with a price tag, but if your dog is in danger of ingesting shards of drywall, plastic, or poisonous food items from your pantry, than it is definitely worth it. Using a crate when you leave is a very helpful way to insure that your dog stays out of mischief when you’re gone and it promotes the idea of sleeping while you’re absent.

4) Finally, pay close attention to your dog’s state of mind when you leave. Don’t leave until your dog is completely calm and at level 0 or 1. This applies to crating as well. Don’t close the door of the crate if your dog is anxious or nervous as they will just continue to be while you’re gone. Leave quietly with no touch, talk or eye contact to your dog. Promote calmness and your dog will stay calm while you’re gone.

It takes time, but soon your dog will be calmly watching you leave and calmly welcoming you home! Lead your dog!