The term separation anxiety is often a mislabeling term used in describing a dog that has not been properly taught how to handle being alone.
The behavior of a dog that does not like being left alone include, whining, barking, howling, digging, destruction, and just plain upset when they are left. Let’s face it, if you’re home, WHY can’t they be with you right? Actually no, we encourage what we call controlled separation to help a dog develop coding skills in their crate.
I tell my clients that a dog has to be “taught” to handle being alone. The best way to do this is to put your dog in a crate for small increments of time while you are still at home, just like a child that does not want to nap, you will have to ignore the upset in order to get past the problem. When the dog has settled down and yes it really can be 15-45 minutes the first time or two, go back and reward them with love and affection, a treat, and let them out. IF you go back while they are barking, the next time they will bark even longer.
Some things I like to do for mild separation issues:
- Try using Valerian Root or herbal anxiety drops made specifically for dogs.
- Cover the crate to help settle the dog down
- Have a talk radio station or new channel playing.
- Purchase an anxiety wrap and put it on before they go into the crate, never leave home with the dog wearing this.
- Put the dog in the crate when you feel they are tired.
- Feed your dog their meals in the crate.
- Give them some high value chew in their crate.
When I hear of a dog that has become a danger to himself, trying to jump out of windows, getting sore or bloody feet from digging at the crate, or mouth sores or broken teeth from trying to bite out of the crate, that is what I consider true separation anxiety. At that point I refer them to a certified veterinary behaviorist (they have a medical degree NOT a trainer that says they do behavior modification) who can assess the issue and prescribe medication to help the dog get through the anxiety. You can’t tell someone that is afraid of heights to just “get over it” nor can you stop that level of stress in a dog without help, often times an anti-anxiety medication.
- Owner of NJ Fix My Dog. An In-home and Boot Camp dog training company.
- Training/Behavioral Director for The K9 Campus (2003-2007).
- Training/Behavioral Director for Morris Animal Inn (2007-2008)
- Nationally ranked Agility and Obedience competitor since 1997.
- 36 years of hands on experience.
- Guest speaker for APDT – American Pet Dog Trainer’s Assoc conference (2001, 2002, 2010).
- President of an off leash dog park in lower NYC (1996-2002).
- Therapy dog team for WTC Crisis Center (10/1/01 – 1/18/02).
- National TV Appearances:
- Animal Planet
- The David Letterman Show
- Purina Incredible Dog Challenge
- The Today Show
- Good Morning America
- Conan O’brien
- Arsenio Hall
Jean believes in a balanced approach to training which means showing the dog what is and is not acceptable behavior and then teaching the owner how to reinforce those life rules in a way that the dog can easily understand.
If you would like to read more about Jean or her dogs, please go to www.NjFixmydog.com