How to Train Dogs with Separation Anxiety

If you have ever come home to find your house destroyed, you may have a dog with separation anxiety. Left untreated, dogs with separation anxiety will immediately start to display anxious and destructive behaviors such as chewing furniture, tearing down curtains, or destroying personal items of their owner, within minutes of their owner leaving their sight.

I have found that dogs that exhibit this behavior tend to be dogs that did not get well socialized as puppies. Dogs that have been abandoned are especially prone to separation anxiety. I adopted a puppy from the local pound that had the most severe case of separation anxiety I have seen in a dog. The pound reported they found him wandering on city streets and he was obviously starved. This puppy had definite abandonment issues and would start destroying items and barking even if I only left to go to a room where he could not see me.

To train dogs with this issue takes a lot of patience, there is no quick cure, but the payoff is tremendous. Remember when training your dog, always be consistent and do not send mixed signals. Reward good behavior and totally ignore bad behavior.

Training

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Start by desensitizing the dog to cues that you are leaving. Some of these cues are picking up keys, putting your shoes on or even just opening a door. If your dog starts to get anxious when you pick up your keys, pick them up and put them down periodically throughout the day. Open doors, exit and immediately come back in. If the dog barks or gets anxious totally ignore that behavior. When the dog stays quiet, reward him with lots of petting and talking and even a treat. Never reward the bad behavior by talking or petting while he’s being anxious.

Start slowly by desensitizing to one cue at a time, such as keys, before moving to another cue.

Also be sure your dog is getting adequate exercise, as this will help their focus and energy levels.

Eventually your dog will learn that he is okay by himself and that you will come back. Until the dog is fully trained, be sure to keep them in a crate or confined space as most dogs can do hundreds of dollars in damage in just a few minutes.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Should you think that your pet needs medical attention, please contact your local veterinarian.  
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