how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs

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A Guide on How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Tips and Tricks

Katelyn Son

By

Medically reviewed by

Jamie Freyer, DVM

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What Dog Breeds Have the Most Separation Anxiety?

What Dog Breeds Have the Most Separation Anxiety

In order to know how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs, first, one needs to know which breeds are more prone to the condition. Generally speaking, terriers, toy breeds, and certain large breed dogs are more prone to develop separation anxiety. The dog breeds that have the highest separation anxiety rates include:

  • Australian Shepherds
  • Bichon Frise
  • Toy Poodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Border Coolies
  • German Shepherd
  • Jack Russel Terrier
  • Basset Hounds
  • French Bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Greyhounds
  • Chihuahuas.

Separation anxiety is an unwanted dog behavior that develops in these breeds for two main reasons. First, these are very active dog breeds – they crave mental and physical stimulation, making it difficult for them to go through alone time.

The second reason is that they are social breeds and crave companionship. Therefore, if left alone for long or short periods, they will develop feelings of loneliness and become anxious.

How do I Prevent My Dog From Having Separation Anxiety?

How do I Prevent My Dog From Having Separation Anxiety

The answer to the question of how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs is complex. More often than not, preventing separation anxiety requires combining different approaches.

For example, things pet owners can do to relieve the signs of separation anxiety include dog-appeasing pheromones (collars and diffusers), enrolling their dogs in doggy daycares, hiring pet sitters, using calming CBD supplements.

Some experts recommend getting a new puppy is also recommended. However, owners must be careful not to end up with two anxious pets.

Here are some of the most effective ways of preventing separation anxiety in dogs.

Socialize Your Dog at a Young Age

Socialization is the process of teaching a dog key life skills and behaviors – how to react to different situations and how to interact with family members, strangers, and other dogs and pets or animals.

The best age for socialization is between four and 12 weeks of age, but in reality, it is a life-long process. Since socialization teaches dogs correct behavior in different situations, a well-socialized dog is less likely to develop separation anxiety.

If you have an adult dog that is socialized for some reason, for example, due to lockdowns during the pandemic, you can still get it socialized. Anyway, in such a case, the process will be longer and more challenging.

Use Exposure Training Techniques

This training technique is based on exposing the dog to its anxiety source to desensitize it. The idea behind this technique is that the dog will react less and less to the trigger if it gets used to its presence.

When using exposure training or desensitization, make sure to stay below the threshold your dog can handle. If your dog starts showing signs of distress like urination, drooling, panting, or defecation, calm it down and pause the training.

Exposure training is effective prevention of separation anxiety in dogs. Start by getting your dog used to departure cues – pick up the car keys without going anywhere. Over time your dog will react less to the departure cues and realize they are not a big deal.

Practice Leaving and Coming Home

Practice Leaving and Coming Home

While all these tips and tricks will surely help your dog’s separation anxiety, the best way to truly get your dog to be alone is for you actually to leave the house.

When you feel that your dog is more comfortable staying home, leave and see how it takes. You can start by leaving for a small amount of time, like going to the store or the gym, and work your way upwards to a full day of work.

Provide Your Dog With Daily Exercise

Exercise is a scientifically proven method of improving separation anxiety. Both physical and mental exercise are great tools for separation anxiety management.

Physical exercise is essential for all dogs, but it is constructive for highly energetic dogs. It can help your dog’s anxiety by keeping it occupied while you are gone. It also tires the dog down, thus preventing unwanted behaviors.

In addition to helping with separation anxiety, exercise promotes healthy body weight and decreases the dog’s risk of developing obesity-related medical conditions.

Use Enrichment Toys

Enrichment toys for dogs include chew toys, puzzles, interactive toys, and the popular Kong toys. Adding toys to your dog’s daily routine helps prevent anxiety by providing ample mental stimulation and keeping the dog occupied.

Puzzle toys and interactive games are the best sources of mental exercise. They help improve mental capacity and health in general. Plus, exercising the dog’s brain may help delay the onset of cognitive dysfunction in senior dogs.

Try Crate Training

Try Crate Training

If used correctly, a dog crate or indoor kennel can be a handy tool for you and your dog. As long as your dog is comfortable and happy, you shouldn’t worry about a crate being cruel to your dog.

Crate training aims to get your dog to feel comfortable or even love its crate. The best way to achieve this is to get your dog to associate the crate with positive experiences and memories. For example, you can try putting treats and beloved toys in the crate.

Crates are especially useful for pet parents whose dogs’ separation anxiety causes them to engage in destructive behavior. If your dog is large, strong, and destructive, a sturdy heavy-duty crate is best since a strong dog can quickly destroy flimsy ones.

Practice Separation With Your Dog

Before leaving your home for an extended period of time, get your dog used to the fact that you will not always be home. Simple acts like getting up to move to another chair or another room in the house can help your dog become less dependent on your presence.

You can then work up to leaving the house for a short while, ideally less than an hour, and see how that goes. It helps if your dog associates the departure with a positive experience. For example, you can give her a special treat or a new toy before you go.

Get a Professional Trainer

As a dog owner, you might try all the tricks and tips in the world, but your dog might still not come around. Severe cases of separation anxiety and issues that last for more extended periods require dog training.

The training sessions are done by dog trainers or veterinary behaviorists. To deal with the symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs, they use various techniques. A popular technique is a positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is an approach based on rewarding the dog for good behavior. For example, the trainer will give the dog a peanut butter treat every time it stays calm despite being exposed to the stress trigger. Over time, the dog will develop a positive association with the stress trigger.

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