You’re walking out the door to work, when your dog whines, whimpers, and howls at the sight of you leaving. You hope they’ll be OK and that your place won’t be torn apart by the time you get back. Sound familiar?
If you have a dog dealing with separation anxiety, this is a common situation, and it can take an emotional toll on you and your dog. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to stay that way.
Joel Beckman, an experienced dog trainer with a unique background training Killer Whales and other exotic animals, founded Beckman’s Dog Training based in Ramona, CA. He’s also a very popular dog trainer here at Camp Run-A-Mutt, and his successful positive approach to training dogs gives him hands-on insights to treating dogs with separation anxiety.
Joel explains there are three forms of separation anxiety: mild, moderate, and severe. Most dogs typically fall within the mild to moderate category: your dog may whine a little bit, bark, or scratch your doors. In rare cases, dogs with severe anxiety may try to jump through windows, tear up the house, and injure themselves.
Regardless of your dog’s anxiety level, there are three easy ways (what Joel calls “The Big Three”) to help rid your dog’s anxiety for good.
Give your dog chew toys
First, offer your dog chew toys. Why? “Dogs carry energy in the muscles of their head, down to their jaws, and if you give them something they like, they sit there, and they chew, and they lick, and it takes a lot of energy out of them,” Joel says.
But any old toy won’t work. To be effective, you should buy safe, reinforcing, and long-lasting ones. In the video, Joel shows the three best chew toys to buy.
“If you think about [your dog’s] separation anxiety, the greatest thing in the world just walked out the door (that’s you). Mom left, life isn’t worth living, so you have to be like, “Yeah, I left, [but] now you’re going to get the greatest thing ever in comparison.”
Exercise your dog before you leave
Walking your dog is always a healthy habit, but if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, Joel recommends walking them right before you leave. “Get some of that energy out.” It’s so much better than coming home to chewed drywall.
Gradually leave your dog for longer periods of time
The reason dogs can form separation anxiety in the first place, Joel says, boils down to “superstitious behavior,” or unwanted behaviors reinforced by accident.
For example, “Your puppy’s whining and you go to work, and then you walk in because you forgot your keys. And The puppy goes, “my whining got her home.” No, your whining didn’t get her home, you just happened to come back home, but you reinforce the whining.”
To reduce the possibility, Joel recommends different steps you can take to gradually leave your dog for longer periods of time.
Separation anxiety is challenging, but following Joel’s steps can help your dog lead a safer, healthier and happier life.
Has your dog suffered from separation anxiety? Tell us your own experiences below.
To learn more about Joel, visit his website Beckman’s Dog Training. He offers a variety of dog-training programs to fit people’s busy lifestyle & needs. You can also subscribe to Joel’s channel to learn more helpful tips for your dog.