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Separation Anxiety - How To Train Your Dog To Stay Home Alone

The bonds that develop between your family and your dog are strong. He quickly sees himself as an integral part of the new pack, aka your family. If you have to leave him alone at certain points in the day he may feel abandoned, and many dogs become anxious in this situation.

Breeds Shar Pei sleeping
This is the kind of response you want when you've left a dog alone - something as calm and sleepy as this Shar Pei

Separation anxiety is the most common reason for destructive behaviors when your dog is left alone. He might develop bad habits such as chewing, biting, barking, drooling, escaping, pacing, stealing food, and scavenging for dead animals or feces when out on a walk. The reason dogs develop these behaviors is that they become stressed when left alone, separated from their “pack”, experience a change in their usual environment, or experience a change in their schedule. It is common for you to notice separation anxiety behavior when he realizes you are about to leave, or just after you have left.

Prevention And Treatment

You need to get your dog used to being left alone for short periods of time so that he knows that everything will be okay. The earlier you can do this the more effective the training will be. Crate training is the best method as it provides your dog with a calm and quiet environment that he can call his own.

Dog destroys furniture Collie sits by shredded chair
Some breeds, such as Collies, get very agitated when home alone, and the furniture can be their first target

It is important that you allow your dog to spend time by himself, either in his crate, another room or the garden. This will help to prevent your dog from becoming overly dependent on you. Do not leave a puppy on its own as it might develop bad habits while you're not around, whereas you can crate train a puppy under supervision. To find out how to crate train a puppy or an older dog read here.

Crate Training A Dog With Separation Anxiety

Crate training is an effective method of preventing separation anxiety. If your dog has developed destructive behavior in your absence, it probably means he's getting anxious when left alone.

Make sure that you begin by leaving your dog for small intervals, and slowly increase these as he becomes more comfortable. It is important that you only begin crate training once you have tired out your dog with a long walk, and make the crate comfortable and inviting for him by providing a soft blanket and rewarding him whenever he is calm and quiet.

Dog destroys toy Labrador eats plush toy
A home alone Labrador creating havoc

Make sure your departure isn’t dragged out when you are leaving the house. The less fuss you make, the better, as it won’t be such a shock when you leave him on his own. It can help to give your dog a distraction as you leave so that your absence is less noticeable. Giving your dog his favorite toy or a kong filled with his favorite treat just before you leave can be a great distraction.

Anti-anxiety Coats

An anti-anxiety coat can be used to calm your dog down - a bit like you getting rid of your work clothes and getting into something more comfortable at the end of the day. The coat applies gentle pressure to your dog’s torso, which usually has a calming effect. Not only do anti-anxiety coats help with dogs who suffer from separation anxiety, they also help to calm dogs who get scared by fireworks, thunder, or traveling in the car.

A sad Mastiff left at home alone
This Mastiff looks sad, but he's learnt that key thing when home alone - patience

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