Q: How can I lessen my dog's separation anxiety?
It’s nice to be missed, but how can I keep my one-year-old dog from “welcoming me to death” when I come home – and wrecking the house while I’m away?
Actually it’s not so nice to be missed by a dog suffering separation anxiety — either for you or the dog. You have to break the cycle and get on with both your lives.
When you brought this loving creature home for the first time, he bonded with you and associated his safe new home with a wonderful human. That was fine for the first couple months — being followed everywhere by an adoring puppy (did you say Velcro® was his name?) is one of the joys of the human-canine relationship.
Around five months is an ideal time for Velcro® to learn about detachment:
“Human must leave me, occasionally and temporarily, to earn a living and provide the lifestyle to which I am becoming accustomed. That’s okay, because Human always comes back. I shouldn’t make a howling fuss when Human leaves. I should not tear the house apart searching for Human. And I shouldn’t bowl over Human at the door to see what’s in that shopping bag.”
Right around now is the perfect time to take the angst out of separation anxiety.
If jangling keys and putting on your coat makes home-alone Velcro® go nuts — do those things and don’t go anywhere. Do that again and again — and when you actually do leave, don’t make a fuss. A simple “Good-bye, Dog” is enough. Lock the door, walk away, ignore the howling, and be gone.
Make it awesome to be alone — by leaving things that he never gets when you’re there, like a special food-stuffed toy.
“Hello, Dog” is ample greeting upon your return. Ignore and turn away — don’t push —if Velcro® jumps all over you. When Velcro® does calm down (that might take a half hour) reward that calm with the fellowship he craves—hugs, maybe a treat, conversation about how each of your separate days went.
Dogs with true separation anxiety are in real distress, so don’t hesitate to talk to your veterinarian about other treatments (including medications) that can help relieve anxiety while you train him to be comfortable being alone.
Never punish a dog for wrecking the house hours earlier. Catch them doing something right and reward that.
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