Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety can reduce the effectiveness of electronic containment systems.
If your dog displays symptoms of separation anxiety, this behaviour must be addressed.

Common Symptoms

  • Escaping, but staying close to home
  • Escaping when you are leaving
  • Escaping shortly after you have left
  • Displaying an overly strong attachment to you. For example following you around, reacting anxiously when you are preparing to leave or wildly greeting you upon your return

Dogs often develop separation anxiety when significant life changes occur. Have any of the following recently occurred?

  • Moved to a new house
  • Prolonged stay at a boarding kennel
  • Experienced a death of a pet or family member
  • Unused to being left alone for long periods of time

Treatment

Desensitization is a behaviour therapy technique used to modify phobic behaviours. The purpose of desensitization is to teach your dog to remain calm during your practice departures and short absences.

By presenting the anxiety inducing stimuli in gradually increasing amounts, your dog’s anxiety response will lessen. This method can take several weeks and requires dedication from the trainer, for this reason some people seek help from professional trainers.

Training Stages

We recommend using the following training sessions. Proceed gradually, repeating the training stage over the course of several days until your dog naturally displays the correct behaviour, then progress to the next stage.

Remember:

  • Every dog is unique and the number of stage repetitions will vary between animals.
  • The beginning is difficult, the training will get easier as you go along
  • For the best results, go slowly with each training stage
Stage 1 – Preparing to Leave

1.Begin your normal departure activities e.g. Getting your keys, Putting on your coat

2.Sit back down

Stage 2 – Starting to Leave

1.Engage in normal departure activities

2.Go to the door and open it

3.Sit back down

Stage 3 – Leaving with Open Door

1.Engage in normal departure activities

2.Go to the door and open it

3.Step outside the door

4.Leave the door open so your dog can see you

5.Go back inside house and sit down

Stage 4 – Leaving with Closed Door

1.Engage in normal departure activities

2.Go to the door and open it

3.Step outside the door

4.Close the door

5.Immediately open the door, return inside and sit down

Slowly your do will get used to being alone with the door closed for a few minutes. Once they are used to being alone for a few minutes, progress to the next stage.

If at any time during this stage your dog is displaying an anxiety response, you have progressed too fast, should return to the previous stage and repeat until your dog no longer displays any distress.

Stage 5 – Short Absences

1.Engage in normal departure activities

2.Go to the door and open it

3.Step outside the door

4.Give your dog a verbal cue e.g. “I’ll be back”

5.Close door and leave

6.Return within a few minutes

7.Greet the dog quietly

If your dog appears anxious, wait until he has relaxed and repeat the stage.

When your dog shows no signs of distress, repeat the stage and gradually increase the time that you are gone.

Practice absences of less than ten minutes as much as possible.

Stage 6 – Longer Absences

1.Engage in normal departure activities

2.Go to the door and open it

3.Step outside the door

4.Give your dog a verbal cue e.g. “I’ll be back”

5.Close door and leave

6.Increase time away (Start at 15 minute absences and increase up to 90 minutes)

7.Return and greet the dog quietly

Once your dog is comfortable with 60 to 90 minute absences he will be able to handle even longer absences.