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Much like humans, dogs love routine and what is familiar to them. When there is a big change or things go out of process it can be unnerving and scary for our four-legged friends. Dogs that act out in different manners when their human companions leave are displaying the common behavior known as separation anxiety. Common Signs of Separation Anxiety include:
- Barking, howling or whining
- Digging, scratching or destruction
- Going to the bathroom in the house
- Escaping or attempting to escape
Why do dogs get separation anxiety?
There isn’t one specific known reason as to why certain dogs develop separation anxiety, there have been some common situations that have been associated with dogs developing separation anxiety.
- Change of family
- Change of caretaker
- Change of routine
- Change in family members
- Change of residence
What to do if your dog has separation anxiety?
Counterconditioning with KONG
If your dog has a milder case of separation anxiety or is a puppy that is starting to show some clues they might have it, try counterconditioning with a KONG toy.
Counterconditioning is the process of changing a dog’s negative reaction to a positive one instead. By using a KONG toy stuffed with your dog’s favorite high-value food you are able to create a positive association and distraction during what normally would be a stressful situation. Separation anxiety happens within the first 20 minutes of a dog being left alone. By giving them a time-consuming food puzzle as soon as you’re about to leave, it not only distracts them from their peak anxiety, but starts to create a positive association between being alone and a getting a reward like a stuffed KONG.
Other Tips for Helping Mild Separation Anxiety
- Don’t make a big deal about leaving or returning. Even if your dog is excited to see you when you get home, ignore them until they are calm
- Leave an item or piece of clothing that smells like their pet parent
- Leave the tv or some music on – we recommend DOGTV and some reggae music
- Take your dog for a walk before you leave so they are tired and more relaxed for your departure
- Hire a dogwalker to help break up the day