Solutions for separation anxiety in dogs
Chibi is a velcro dog. There is no doubt about it. From even before we brought her home, our breeder told us she loves chilling with people and being a part of whatever they’re doing.
Just like Kokoro, we crate trained her as soon as we brought her home with the hopes that she would be just as independent as K was. But, after the first six months of separation anxiety training, I started bringing her to my dog-friendly office with me and she regressed a little bit in independence.
These days, Chibi definitely has some separation anxiety, but luckily we’ve found some surefire ways to make it a little easier on her when we leave. There are so many training techniques and approaches to helping your dog if they have separation anxiety. Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite tips & tricks for when your pup is just a little too attached to you.
Watch our vlog about this on YouTube
First off, what does separation anxiety look like? Separation anxiety can cause destructive behavior from dogs For Chibi, she barks, cries, and even howls out of despair when we leave her alone. It’s especially worse for her when we take Kokoro with us and leave her all by herself at home. She has gone dumpster diving, opened our packages, and ripped up paper amidst the stress.
Thankfully, we’ve since found a few main methods to help reduce the stress and destructive behavior when we leave.
1. No dramatic arrivals or departures
We used to say “bye” to the dogs, but that just caused Chibi to associate something big happening with the word “bye.” So now, we don’t even say anything when we leave to make the departure as insignificant for the dogs as possible. The same thing goes for when we come home — no saying hi, pets, or rewards until the dogs sit or lay down quietly and calmly. Being diligent about this one is a little tough, because it’s tempting to greet your dog and say bye to them just like you would to your human family, but making these moments less dramatic will greatly help with your dog’s separation anxiety.
2. Give them plenty of entertainment when you leave
The first 20-45 minutes are the most stressful for your dog when you leave. So give them plenty of toys and treats to keep them occupied when you head out. We like to leave a variety of puzzle toys around the house to give the dogs something to do. Some of our favorite toys include:
Once the toys are filled, we hide them around the house, put the dogs in a down or sit stay, and have them wait to be released. Teaching them impulse control is crucial so that they pay attention to you and wait for your command rather than freely going nuts for the toys. This way, instead of paying attention to you grabbing your keys and putting on your shoes, your dog will be eagerly awaiting the magic word (for us, it’s “break”) so that they can play with all the toys you just laid out.
3. Provide toys that encourage sniffing & licking
Both of these behaviors can calm a stressed dog. A frozen kong (filled with peanut butter or their favorite bone broth) is perfect for encouraging licking for a long period of time.
We also use a snuffle mat to hide broken up treats. The pups will have to sniff for the treats, which also helps them de-stress. Here is a link to the one we own.
4. Practice mat training
Mat training is very similar to crate training, but instead of being completely restrained, dogs will learn that a mat or bed is a safe and happy place for them to settle. Chibi’s separation anxiety continues even when we aren’t at home.
So for example, when we go to the office and she’s laying by my desk, she will whine and cry if I get up to go to another part of the office or head into a meeting without her. With mat training, you teach the dog to associate the mat with good and happy things, just like how they love their crates at home.
Now, Chibi has learned to lay down, settle, and chew her toys on her mat at my office. And when I get up to leave, she doesn’t get as nervous because she already has a place where she belongs, feels comfortable, and can enjoy doing her dog things without me.
5. Try calming supplements
We use CBD oil every time we go to the office, where Chibi’s separation anxiety can be a little worse depending on how much activity there is that day. If your dog suffers from more serious separation anxiety, you can talk to your vet about trying medication like Zylkene.
That’s it! Thanks for reading (or watching our YouTube video) if you made it all the way here. That sums up our favorite techniques for easing Chibi’s separation anxiety. Let us know if any of these tips worked for your pup!