Dog Separation Distress (Anxiety)

French Bulldog Jumping up with smile

With the new regulations in place I thought it would be the best time to share some tips and tricks to helping reduce separation distress (anxiety) in your dog. These tips are for puppies or dogs of any age and if you have any questions please feel free to send me a message and I will be more than happy to help.

Dogs that are more susceptible to Separation Distress

There are some dogs that are more susceptible to developing separation distress than others.

  • Dogs who have previously suffered from separation distress behaviours that had been resolved
  • Dogs who have been rescued, rehomed or fostered repeatedly
  • Dogs who are sensitive to noises
  • Dogs who do not like thunder or storms
  • Dogs with a history of abuse
  • Loss of a previous dog companion who may have been more confident
  • Puppies who may have been overprotected or had a poor upbringing
  • Ageing dogs who may be losing their sight, hearing, or feeling more confused (cognitive dysfunction).

It is important to remember that any dog can develop Separation Distress it is just that those above are at a slightly higher risk.

Signs of dogs that have separation distress can vary and there need to be multiple different symptoms for it to be considered.

IMPORTANT – If your dog shows any sudden changes in behaviour you must visit a vet first to rule out any health concerns.

How to reduce the chance of your dog developing separation distress

Have time away from your dog

  • I know in these crazy times that is hard to separate yourself from your dog as you are in the house but if you can put them into a separate room or put a stair gate between you them this will help your dog/puppy realize that they do not get access to you 24/7. This will also teach them to be more independent and allow them to learn how to cope by themselves.
  • Start with short periods of time (5-10 minutes) and slowly build.
  • Whilst you are giving your dog their alone time give them something to do like a Kong, lick mat or chew. This will help distract them, so they are not thinking about the fact that you are not in the room with them.
  • This can also translate to you going out. Take a small part of your daily exercise away from your dog. This will not only train your dog that they do not need to be with you, but everyone needs a break 😊

Build their independence

  • Many dogs do not like to do things without their owners around, like going to the toilet, eating, or even just exploring. If we can teach our dogs that it is okay to do these things by themselves then they will realize they can be more independent.
  • Scatter Feeding – Grab some of your dog’s daily food, take it outside and spread it on the floor for them to find. If you have a garden, move away from the dog so that they realize they are doing it without you. If you do not have a garden, take your dog out on a long lead to a park or safe area and let them find the food whilst you move to the end of the line. This can also be done off lead if safe.

Calmness

  • Those who train with me will know that calmness is king!
  • Give your dog an area where they can go that they feel safe, like a bed, create or blanket. DON’T put it in front of the door that you are behind or have left through, as the dog may perceive the door as unsafe because they don’t know who or what is going to come through it due to its unpredictability.
  • Once you have found an area start putting some food down and reward your dog when they move into the area (all 4 paws in or on the area).
  • You can then start building duration with items that promote calmness in your dog. For example, Kong’s, Lick Matts, Puzzles, Bones and Chews.
  • Once your dog is happy with that you can then start to move out of the room and build the amount of time you are away from them.

Finally, remember that you do not have to take your dog out before leaving them! This can sometimes be counterproductive and increase their excitement before you leave. Make sure everything is calm and that your dog is settled before you go.

Disclaimer – These tips above are there to help PREVENT separation distress. If you feel your dog may be suffering from this contact a trainer and get advice.

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