Techniques to help your dog deal with its anxiety

FOR a minor separation anxiety problem, the following techniques may be helpful by themselves.

For more severe problems, these techniques should be used along with the desensitisation process I will describe next week.

            Keep arrivals and departures low-key.  For example, when you arrive home, ignore your dog for the first few minutes, then calmly pet him.  This may be hard for you to do, but it’s important!

            Leave your dog with an article of clothing that smells like you such as an old T-shirt that you’ve slept in recently.

            Establish a “safety cue” a word or action that you use every time you leave that tells your dog you’ll be back.  Dogs usually learn to associate certain cues with short absences by their owners. For example, when you take out the rubbish, your dog knows you come right back and doesn’t become anxious, so associate a safety cue with that.

Some examples of safety cues are playing a radio, putting on the television, or giving a safe toy.  Use your safety cue during practice sessions with your dog. Be sure to avoid presenting your dog with the safety cue when you leave for a period of time longer than he can tolerate; if you do, the value of the cue will be lost.

Leaving a radio on to provide company for your dog isn’t particularly useful by itself, but a playing radio may work if you’ve used it consistently as a safety cue in your practice sessions.

If your dog engages in destructive chewing as part of his separation distress, offering him a chewing item as a safety cue is a good idea.


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