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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

10 Ways to Reduce Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety can cause significant distress for both dogs and their owners. It can lead to various behaviors like excessive barking, destructive chewing, pacing, and even self-harm. However, there are proactive steps we can take to help our dogs feel more comfortable when left alone. By understanding and implementing effective strategies, we can greatly enhance our dog's well-being and bring peace of mind to our households.

1. Gradual Departures and Arrivals

Begin by desensitizing your dog to your departures and arrivals. Start with brief absences and gradually extend the duration you're away. Maintain calm greetings upon returning home. This approach helps your dog learn that your departures are temporary and nothing to fret about.


2. Create a Safe Space

Create a cozy, secure area in your home where your dog can relax. Equip it with bedding, toys, and maybe an item of your clothing that has your scent. This designated safe space can become a comforting retreat when you're away. For some dogs, a dog-proofed room with a baby gate or a crate may provide extra security. It's important to note that dogs prone to destructive behavior should not have access to items they could chew up or swallow while alone.


3. Establish a Routine

Dogs thrive on routine. Establishing a consistent schedule for feeding, walks, training, enrichment activities, and playtime is key. Predictability helps reduce anxiety by providing structure and stability in your dog's daily life. Dogs thrive when they know what to expect and when to expect it, fostering a sense of security and well-being.


4. Provide Physical and Mental Stimulation

Ensure your dog receives ample exercise and mental stimulation, including vigorous activities like fetch or chasing a flirt pole. Tug of war is also excellent if your dog doesn't or can't run. Regular walks, interactive toys, and puzzle feeders are essential for keeping your dog engaged and preventing boredom, which can contribute to anxiety. These activities not only provide physical exercise but also stimulate your dog mentally, promoting overall well-being and reducing stress.


5. Desensitize Departure Cues

Dogs are highly perceptive to environmental cues and quickly learn that certain actions, like picking up keys or putting on shoes, often precede their owner's departure. This awareness can trigger anxiety as they anticipate being left alone. To mitigate this, it's crucial to condition your dog to associate these departure cues with positive experiences. Practice these cues routinely without actually leaving—pick up your keys or put on your shoes, then engage in a pleasant activity with your dog or offer treats and praise for calm behavior. This technique helps to reshape your dog's response to departure cues, reducing separation anxiety and promoting a more relaxed state when you do need to leave.


6. Use Calming Aids

In cases of severe separation anxiety, some dogs may require additional support. Consider using calming aids such as CBD, calming collars, or pheromones, which are recognized for their benefits in reducing anxiety in dogs. For more severe cases, prescription medication from your veterinarian may be necessary to alleviate your dog's symptoms while you address their emotional response to departures through behavior modification efforts. These aids complement behavior modification strategies and can offer valuable support in effectively managing separation anxiety.


7. Avoid Punishment

Never ever should you punish your dog for anxious behaviors related to separation anxiety. Punishment will only worsen your dogs separation anxiety and damage the bond between you and your dog. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and patience.


8. Seek Professional Help

If your dog's separation anxiety is severe or persists despite your efforts, seek guidance from a certified professional force free dog trainer. They will be able to assess your dog's behavior and tailor a behavior modification plan to address the underlying causes.


9. Consider Using a Dog Sitter or Walker

Arrange for a dog sitter or walker to visit for an hour or so while you're away, if possible. This ensures your pup receives companionship, playtime, and necessary potty breaks, which can alleviate their anxiety. Regular social interaction and stimulation can greatly benefit your dog during your absence.


10. Be Patient and Consistent

Managing separation anxiety takes time and patience. Stay consistent with your training efforts and be compassionate towards your dog's feelings. With dedication and understanding, you can help your dog feel more secure and confident when left alone.


By implementing these tips and techniques, you can make significant strides in managing your dog's separation anxiety and creating a happier, more relaxed environment for both you and your beloved canine companion.


Ready to address separation anxiety with expert guidance? Contact Best Buddy Dog Trainer today at Jeff@bestbuddydogtrainer.com or call 301-231-1907 to explore our personalized training programs. Sign up here and take the first step towards a happier, more confident dog!

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