Does your dog demonstrate signs of fear and nervousness when left alone? Separation anxiety has become a bit of a “catch-all” phrase in the dog world but dog’s can experience varying levels of anxiety, fear and nervousness when left on their own. For serious cases with complex causes, especially if your dog has become self destructive, consulting a Dog Trainer who is a qualified Behavior Analyst is recommended.
When trying to help your dog become relaxed and calm when left alone the first thing you should do is take it to your vet so you can be sure its nervous behavior isn’t caused by a medical condition.
Once your vet has determined your dog is physically fit the next step is to make sure your dog is getting adequate exercise and mental stimulation. And however much physical and mental exercise Fido may be getting now, increase it. Just like humans, exercise will help your dog’s brain regulate mood and reduce nervous behavior. Exercise alone will often reduce your doges anxiety and nervousness. A dog that is well exercised will be more relaxed and less likely to display destructive behaviors. A tired dog is a happy dog.
Diet can also be a factor. Poor quality foods use ingredients like corn which can alter the brain’s ability to moderate mood by causing an imbalance in amino acids and brain functioning. The result of these imbalances can be an animal that becomes agitated, impulsive, obsessive and over-reactive. Always ensure your pet is fed a high quality diet free of corn, wheat, soy, hormones/steroids, by-products, artificial colors/flavors, or chemical preservatives.
Dogs often display anxiety, (pacing, whining, barking, inappropriate chewing, etc.) out of pure loneliness and boredom. If you suspect that boredom may contribute to your dog’s anxiety look into some of the excellent interactive toys now available for pets. You can even use toys that will dispense your dog’s meals keeping it mentally stimulated figuring out how to get its breakfast. Your dog may not even notice you’ve gone to work.
Another important technique for your dog’s general well being is to make sure your dog is getting quality “face” time with you and your family. They are pack animals and we are their pack. And there is nothing like enrolling your dog in an obedience or agility course, using strictly positive methods, to help build a strong relationship between you and your dog. Also, consider putting your dog into daycare or hiring a dog walker. Your dog will greatly benefit from the additional exercise and companionship.
Finally, one of the most effective methods of ensuring a happy, confident and well-mannered dog in general is to ‘crate-train’ it. A properly crate-trained dog feels relaxed, safe and secure in its crate (download our free e-book on crate-training).
Whichever of these techniques you use, success will come with time, patience and consistency. And under no circumstance should you punish your dog for anxious behaviors as that tends to make the condition worse. Remember, if your dog’s condition seems severe, especially where it may harm itself, consult a Canine Behavior Analyst. A Behavior Analyst is equipped to identify the root cause of your dog’s destructive behaviors and can guide you through a customized program of training tailored for your particular situation.