Separation anxiety

At home

The dog should only be acknowledged on the owner’s initiation and only when the dog is calm and relaxed.

The owner should encourage the dog to become independent by avoiding constant physical contact with the dog (petting, holding the dog close).

The owner teaches the dog how to be calm when it stays home alone. The training begins by the owner ordering the dog to lay still while the owner retreats a few steps back, and returns immediately. The dog is briefly praised when it stays in place. The distance and duration of absence is gradually lengthened. The dog must be calm and relaxed at the beginning of and during the exercise. The goal is to train the dog to stay calm even when it is left home alone.

The dog must get used to stimuli that trigger the anxiety. A dog suffering from separation anxiety will often become anxious when the owner indicates leaving by handling keys, putting on a coat or taking out a certain bag. The owner should handle these triggers daily without actually leaving.

When leaving home

The dog should be ignored for half an hour before leaving. The departure of the owner should be a neutral situation without explicit farewell that makes the dog nervous.

When leaving home, give the dog a treat or a toy that it will catch the dog’s interest. When returning home, remove the object to be used next time. This object or treat should be meaningful to the dog (e.g. an activation toy filled with treats), so it starts to think of the departure of the owner as a positive thing and has something to do while being alone.

When returning home

The dog should be ignored until it is calm and relaxed. Even then it should only be acknowledged on the owner’s initiation. If the dog is acknowledged only when it is calm, it associated attention to calm behaviour.

The dog should not be punished for the misdeeds it has done while alone (e.g. peeing inside). The owner needs to understand that an anxious dog cannot control its behaviour when it is left alone. Punishing only increases anxiety. The opposite of rewarding (acknowledging, praising) is not punishment, but not-rewarding.

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