Top 3 Separation Anxiety Training Tips

Separation Anxiety is extremely common, and can be hard to cure.

This is a problem that can show up in any age of dog. Some dogs display it by being vocal, others by being destructive. Separation anxiety is a frustrating behavior issue because you generally aren’t there to see it, and adjusting your schedule around your dog can be problematic.

Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to make your dog more comfortable in your absence. Here are our top three separation anxiety training tips.

1) Create healthy separation while you are home.

If your dog is having issues when you are just in the next room, they will definitely struggle when you leave for work. The first step that you should take is to establish some healthy separation in the home.

Make your dog’s crate an enjoyable place when you are home. Feed her all of her meals in there and give her interactive toys such as stuffed Kong’s in the crate. Periodically put her in the crate for 10-15 minute periods for no reason. You can even be in the same room! Your dog is only allowed out when they are calm and quiet.Dogs relaxing in crates separation anxiety training

Temper and Mo are able to totally relax in their x-pen while I am answering emails.

Gradually increase the amount of time that your dog spends in the crate. You should start to see your dog become more and more comfortable staying calm when you walk into the next room.

You should also teach your dog stays and a place commands. These are behaviors where your dog will have to show self control when you walk away. You can reinforce your dog heavily for these behaviors, and show them that you going further away isn’t a bad thing. Gradually increase the distance and duration of these commands.

Group class stays
Stays and places give you a chance to reward your dog for being away from you.

2) Staying calm will help your dog to stay calm.

It’s nice to come home to a happy dog after a long day at work. Most people shower their dog with affection as soon as they walk through the door. While people do this with the best of intentions, it can have a negative affect on your dog’s state of mind.

If you have a dog who is struggling with separation anxiety training, you need to be careful not to reinforce the wrong things. Your dog has been anxious all day waiting for you to come back. If you walk through the door and make a big deal about them, it reinforces their thought process that things were bad when you were gone, and are now good since you are back.

Instead, come home and immediately let your dog out in the backyard or take them for a short walk.

Do not give them petting and attention until you have been home for 20-30 minutes and your dog is completely calm.

Doing this will change the way that your dog perceives you coming home. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your dog and that you can’t give them affection, it just means that your dog shouldn’t see you coming home as the most exciting part of the day.

Dog with toy
Your dog should be most excited about playing with you and training with you, not just seeing you walk through the door.

3) Take advantage of technology.

Separation anxiety training methods have changed quite a bit over the years. One of the biggest changes has come from new technology that is available.

As mentioned earlier, one of the hardest things about this issue is that it happens when you aren’t around. This means that it can be hard to monitor progress, or to reward your dog for the right things.

One thing that you can do is set up a camera in your dog’s area so that you can see them from anywhere. We personally recommend the Nest Camera system, which can be easily connected to your phone so that you can monitor training progress from anywhere.

Separation anxiety training with treat and train
The Treat and Train is a great tool for separation anxiety training!

Another great tool is the Manner’s Minder, or Treat and Train. This machine can sit right on top of a wire crate, and can be set up to deliver treats to your dog either with a remote or on a timer. This means that you can reinforce calm behavior from the other side of the house. You can even set it on a timer before you leave for work, so that your dog is periodically rewarded throughout the day.

Be Patient

Separation anxiety didn’t develop overnight, and it takes time to bring your dog into the right frame of mind. If your dog suffers a setback, don’t get discouraged. Consistency is key in all areas of dog training, and over time you will see great results if you stick with it.

If you have any further questions about these tips, contact us for more information.

When Behavioral Problems Aren’t Behavioral

Today I met a couple who are struggling with potty training issues with their young Biewer terrier.

They have been trying to house train her for weeks with no improvement. When they take her out, she will go, but then she goes again as soon as they bring her inside.

They are understandably frustrated by the lack of progress. In the hour that they were at the facility, the little dog peed three separate times. That threw up a red flag to me, and I recommended that they head to the vet to check for a UTI.

Health Related Potty Training Issues

There are a few different health issues that can affect house training. Urinary tract infections are the biggest culprit. Commonly an issue with female dogs, this issue can put a dent in your training. Fortunately, it can easily be solved with a round of antibiotics from your veterinarian.

Other issues can also cause regression in potty training. Kidney infections or kidney disease can result in urinary problems. Older dogs may struggle with incontinence. Some spayed females will also have issues in this area.

Puppy behavioral issues with trainer

How can you tell if the issue is health or behavioral?

If your dog has been doing really well with house training, and suddenly has issues, a trip to your veterinarian is in order. Other red flags include:

  • Seeming unable to “hold it”
  • Puppies who don’t seem to make progress
  • Dogs who go multiple times in a short period
  • Discolored urine
  • Lethargy or acting uncomfortable
  • Increased thirst

If you notice any of these symptoms, your dog should receive a veterinary exam. Bloodwork or a urinalysis may be needed to discover the cause.

Health Issues Related to Aggression

Aggression from a dog is always concerning. It can be particularly distressing when it shows up in a dog that never had those type of issues before.

Aggressive shepherd dog

Sudden changes in behavior always warrant a health check. Thyroid issues are often the cause of sudden changes in behavior. Thyroid levels can be checked with bloodwork, and your vet can prescribe a medication to help your dog return to normal.

Pain can also cause your dog to lash out aggressively. Dogs who have joint issues, an injury, or worsening arthritis may be extra defensive of their space. This can even be seen with sick dogs.

My dog Modoc was diagnosed with IBD, an autoimmune condition, when he was just under two years old. He has intermittent flares, and one of the symptoms of this is him getting grumpier.

This phenomenon has been seen in multiple studies that looked at how GI issues related to behavior. GI imbalances in rats and humans led to more anti-social behavior.

Lastly, neurological conditions can cause aggressive behavioral issues. Certain types of epilepsy can show up in this manner. Dogs with brain tumors may also show a sudden change in behavior that it otherwise without cause.

Health Issues Related to Fear

Some dogs will suddenly develop phobias that they never had before. One case that I saw was an agility dog who started to refuse weave poles. She was unhappy when asked to weave, and would regularly miss poles.

Disc doc Zoe
Reluctance to do normal activities can be a sign of injury.

This was a dog that normally loved agility. She had a great trainer, had no other behavioral issues, and had trialed extensively.

When this behavior started up, her trainer responded just as she should. She took the dog to the vet, because sudden behavioral changes are often health related.

An exam and x-ray of her dog’s foot revealed a broken toe. It wasn’t a bad enough injury to affect normal life, but it made weaving painful for the dog.

Some rest and recuperation were prescribed, and the dog went on the successfully start agility again and run for many more years.

Injuries like these can often cause a more sensitive dog to show fear or apprehension. Sometimes the injury can be very small, other times it might be a more serious issue.

Be An Advocate For Your Dog

When you live with a dog, you really get to know them. You know their quirks, their favorite snacks, and what their favorite activities are. If you notice sudden changes in your pet, make sure to monitor them.

Don’t be too quick to assume that your dog is being too stubborn or obstinate. Sometimes it’s as simple as a UTI or a stubbed toe.