3 Tips to Handle Anxiety in Your Dog

Separation anxiety is one of the most common syndromes affecting our canine friends. Dogs are easily susceptible to fear, anxiety, and nervousness when left alone or distressed. These feelings often translate into disruptive and destructive behaviors, such as chewing, digging, barking, urinating, or trying to escape.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our dogs exhibit symptoms of separation anxiety anyway. It’s important to properly diagnose the condition before treating your dog. Make sure that incontinence or bad behaviors aren’t due to medical reasons, excitement, incomplete house training, juvenile habits, and boredom.

Address the Problem at Its Source

Discovering the source of the problem is the first step toward solving separation anxiety. Scientists still don’t have conclusive evidence as to why dogs develop separation anxiety, but it seems to have a connection with dramatic changes. Certain changes appear to trigger separation anxiety, such as:

• Changing families. Experiences such as abandonment, placement in a shelter, or transfer to a new guardian can trigger bad behaviors.

• Changes in schedule. An abrupt change in the duration and frequency of a guardian’s absence can trigger separation anxiety. For example, puppies may react badly when their guardians leave them alone for long periods of time too soon.

• Change in the household. This includes sudden absences, such as the death of a guardian, a family member, or the departure of a household member.

Once you identify the cause of your dog’s separation anxiety, you can develop a treatment plan.

Consider Counterconditioning

Counterconditioning teaches a dog to have a pleasant and relaxed reaction to something that once made him or her anxious or fearful. This treatment can work for mild separation anxiety too. Associate the sight of your departure or any other trigger with something positive, such as a favorite toy or treat. It may take some time, but eventually your dog will connect the thing that made him or her feel anxious or fearful with something loved instead.

Try Crate Training

If you didn’t crate train your dog as a puppy, it’s not too late. Many owners successfully prevent and cure separation anxiety by providing a safe place for dogs. Start by slowly familiarizing your dog with the crate. You may not want to shut the door right away, but slowly work up to it. If you can establish a safe and secure place for you dog while you’re away, you can help ease anxiety and fear.

No matter what method you choose, be patient with your dog. Separation anxiety comes from a place of fear, not rebellion.

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