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Understanding Dog Separation Anxiety

One of the most common problems I hear from fellow dog owners is the incredibly stressful case of separation anxiety.
Dogs with separation anxiety can turn into nervous wrecks, and as owners, we don't know what to do.

We still need to go to work, buy groceries, and take care of our children. So, what can we do to train our dogs that it is okay when we leave, that we will return and they needn't worry?
It's a tricky science with many people voicing their opinions. But, in the end, it comes down to simply being there for your dog and not supporting their behaviour with reinforcement.
The Danger of Separation Anxiety

To start with, separation anxiety is often mistaken for excitement. When you return home and see your dog bouncing around wagging its tail, you probably assume that they are just very happy to see you. This may be the case, but it can also be a sign of excitability - the result of anguish they felt before.

That anguish comes about when they are left alone - some part of their canine instincts flashing that they are being abandoned, a death knell to dogs. You shouldn't feel guilty about leaving your dog. Most dogs can handle it perfectly well, and even those with anxiety can be retrained with proper dog training tips.

But, if you ignore it or allow them to continue showing that excitement, it is bad for their health. Not only can it progress to full blown depression and anxiety which hurts the heart, but it can result in destruction around your home and dogs barking when you are not around.

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Why Dogs Become Anxious

On a very basic level, separation anxiety is due to a dog's pack mentality. If they are left alone, they feel that they have been dropped from the pack. But, on a more immediate level, your dog is anxious because you have not clearly shown them that you are a solid, in command pack leader.

In the wild, a pack leader may often leave the pack for a time to hunt or scout ahead. If your dog sees you leave and gets upset, they very well might see you as a follower, and themselves as an alpha leader.

Your job is to take control of the situation and show them that you are not only the leader of your pack, but that you will return every time you leave. Dogs that openly accept their owner as pack leader are infinitely less stressed and anxious. They can trust in you to deal with the issues at hand.
Of course, not all separation anxiety is as complicated as a pack leader dilemma. Sometimes, it can be simply due to a lack of exercise. A dog that does not get enough exercise simply becomes agitated when you leave and will keep themselves busy while you're gone by destroying your home.

The easiest way to handle this is to make sure your dog gets a real walk before you leave - at least 30 minutes of solid walking. You should also walk your dog after you've returned home and waited the 15 minutes before greeting.
Giving Your Dog What She Needs

Good dog ownership consists of giving your dog what she needs, and not what she wants. This may sound cruel, but in reality, by treating your dog as a dog and not as a human being, you will provide them with the stable, protected environment she craves.

She will be able to relax when you leave and you'll know that your $200 shoes are still intact every day when you return home.

If you want even more comprehensive information about resolving separation anxiety in dogs, please check out:

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