Dog separation anxiety is a very stressful behavioral issue that effects a huge percentage of the dog population, possibly as high as 14%. It is one of the most misunderstood issues. People try to treat it by approaching it from a human point of view, and therefore fail to see the cause. It is particularly upsetting for pet owners and pet sitters at handover time on a house sit, so some tips for dog separation anxiety training might be helpful to ease this distress.
The answer to stopping dog separation anxiety is simple.
It’s the same answer to most dog behavioral issues – you have to show the dog that you are the pack leader.
There’s a wide range of symptoms an anxious dog can display, all of which can be very distressing for the dog. However, treating the symptoms is not treating the cause of the problem.
As a pet owner (or as a house or pet sitter) you can easily address the root cause of these symptoms.
First, ask yourself this question:
When you go out, leaving your dog at home, do the anxiety symptoms your dog displays stop when you get back?
If they do then I suggest that you being away is actually connected to the cause.
What are the symptoms of dog anxiety?
Let’s take a look at a few of the most common symptoms of separation anxiety. Recognizing that the following behaviors could be symptoms of separation anxiety is a good start:
- Chewing: releases endorphins similar to those released when a human is chewing gum in an attempt to stay calm
- Barking or whining: this is a call for the owners to return to the pack, just as you might call your children when you can’t find them
- Escaping from a room, the home or garden: this can be destructive, extreme and sometimes dangerous. Quite simply your dog is looking for you. We’re often told that with plenty of daily exercise we can prevent this problem, but while your dog may be more tired, it doesn’t solve the root cause of the problem
- Digging, destruction: this is all connected to stressful and anxious behavior
- Self-mutilation: excessive licking and chewing of oneself. Excessive drooling is also a sign of stress. These signs are often mistaken for medical conditions, but are all stress related
- Toileting: if your dog is toilet trained but starts toileting inside the house, and you think it’s behavioral, then it could well be. If it’s only happening when you’re away from your dog, then it’s very likely to be connected to your dog’s separation anxiety
Whilst there are lots of places where you can find advice on how to treat all these dog anxiety symptoms, there’s only one way to treat the actual root cause of the problem. If you’re serious about stopping separation anxiety then you must become the pack leader.
This applies equally, whether you are the dog’s owner, or the temporary carer as a house or pet sitter.
Separation anxiety is a very straight forward problem that occurs when your dog believes they are the pack leader and you are their puppy or member of their pack.
How would your pup deal with separation in the wild?
In the wild, pack-member dogs do not wander off from the den on their own – they would usually go hunting as a group when the pack leader decides it’s time to go.
If your dog thinks he (or she) is the pack leader, there is an inherent responsibility to look after you. If you leave, your dog’s separation anxiety will kick in and continue until you return.
However, once you show your dog that you are the pack leader your dog will be fine with you coming and going as you please.
Where can I learn more about dog separation anxiety training?
Getting rid of the symptoms of dog separation anxiety will happen naturally as a result of learning how to become the pack leader.
One of the best places to understand more about establishing yourself as the pack leader is on my “TheOnlineDogTrainer” website.
You can watch a FREE 4-part video series which gives full details. The third video in the series details five key rules which will firmly establish you as pack leader in your dog’s eyes.
I would suggest if you are really serious about dealing with you dog’s separation anxiety immediately then learn how to establish yourself quickly as the pack leader.
All your dog needs is you to be a strong pack leader.