Separation Anxiety is when a dog really stresses out when you leave them. Signs of separation anxiety can be:
1. Barking / Yelping / Whining
2. Chewing walls near the door or doors
3. Drooling excessively (enough to make a big puddle or coat themselves)
4. Frantic pacing
5. Digging under a fence or on the floor to escape
6. Jumping through windows
There are a few things that really help to overcome or even prevent Separation Anxiety:
1. Ignore the dog when first coming home until the dog calms down. When the dog is calm then you can go down to pet the dog. Do Not make a big fuss over the dog when coming into the house. Otherwise this teaches the dog that their people coming and going from the house is a high emotional time. Luckily for most dogs once you have prevented or overcome separation anxiety and been ignoring them until they calm down for a few months, you can usually greet them a little more excitedly and they will still be fine.
2. Exercise the dog a lot (according to Core Rule: Energy Spectrum -
3. Begin going further and further away and then out of sight for a few seconds and work your way up to be longer and longer out of sight.
Most commonly, dogs that have the worst separation anxiety are allowed to be on beds or furniture and are always cuddling with their humans. They can become so dependent on this that they have really bad separation anxiety even if you so much as get up to go to the washroom.
If your dog already suffers from bad Separation Anxiety then you will want to exercise them until they are really tired. This makes it easier to get away from them a little bit and then come back to praise.
The fastest way to exercise a dog is to have them pull weights on a sleigh. You want to start out with small amounts and work your way up. If you are constrained for time and have a very high energy dog that is the best way to tire them out.
Doggy Daycare can also be a great way to exercise a dog.
Treadmills are another great idea and even better with a backpack with weights. You want to ensure you don't over exercise your dog (pushing them past where they want to stop) so you can start out small and work your way up. Finishing off with some mental exercise such as teaching your dog distance commands can work to fully tire out your dog.
Giving away lots of free attention and constantly cuddling the dog will make Separation Anxiety much worse. The dog needs to learn to be independent from you so that they do not stress out when you are gone. A dog with independence is a much happier dog and you can bring this dog more places and also have other people look after the dog when you are away on holidays or for family emergency.
One of the more severe cases of separation anxiety we dealt with was a dog that would bite her owners and try to bring them back into the house so they wouldn't leave. If they put their shoes on, grabbed their keys or their cell phone rang (in this case it meant the dad had to leave) then she would bark and become stressed out.
To solve this issue took us 2 weeks of exercise and time being away from her. In our case we used an ATV to exercise her to run her up and down the road as she was the type of dog that wouldn't full on run to tire herself out as she always preserved her energy.
After exercising her we would tie her up and give her some water to drink. I would walk 10 steps away and come back to praise her. Then I would keep increasing time. If she would bark I would ignore her until she was quiet for a bit and then come out to praise.
If she would bark for a long time I would come get her and take her for a quad ride (I would actually walk past her at an angle away from her and she would stop barking and then I would acknowledge her and walk toward her).
We also used a Dogtra Remote Training Collar on her. If she would bark for long periods of time I would press the vibrate button which would make her stop barking and look around. This gave me the chance to come and praise her for being quiet.
This process took just over 2 weeks for her to finally be calm when left alone. The problem was compounded by the fact that she was a Terrier and in her case wanted to be an Alpha so it wasn't just Separation Anxiety it was also a Temper Tantrum for not getting her way.
Getting a Rescue Dog with Separation Anxiety
Some people will find after they get a rescue that they have bad separation anxiety. If these people also have to work and be away from the home all day it can be really tough to overcome this problem.
Doggy Daycare can often be a great way to get the dog used to being away from their human but still have interaction with other dogs or people. It also tires them out a lot which makes your life easier when you come home to do Separation Anxiety Training.
The dog will need to be tied off to the side on their dog bed to practice being away from you.
The People -
Over many years of training you recognize very key traits between people in which can cause separation anxiety or prevent it altogether. Here they are in point form:
People with Separation Anxiety Dogs
When coming home often greet their dogs very excitedly.
Allow their dog up on beds and furniture.
Give attention to their dog whenever the dog demands it.
Will freely admit that they spoil their dogs.
The dog can become so dependent on them that they become frantic when their human leaves.
People without Separation Anxiety Dogs
Ignore the dog when arriving home and wait till they are calm and quiet to greet them.
Do not allow their dog up on beds or furniture (some still do but only when they ask the dog to come up, there are still some rules on this). If you already have problems with Separation Anxiety you are best to follow the rules 100%.
Make the dog work for the things they like (Food, Possessions, Attention) and do not freely give into Attention demands.
Enforce rules with their dog.
This can be a tough issue for those who freely give love to their dogs. We are Primate Species and we abide by certain rules. It helps to know that our dogs are Canine Species and they abide by different rules.
What we find is the more you make a dog work for the things they love and enforce the rules they have to follow, the happier the dog is. They have no stress because they know the rules and have a calm and compassionate leader that will keep them safe.
Here is a picture of a dog that has to follow extremely strict rules as she is a working dog. She is one of the happiest dogs we know.