Generally, dogs with Separation Anxiety lack self-esteem and this can be due to changes in their life. Where they once felt secure, they no longer do, so you need to help them to build self-esteem through daily positive obedience training and the more short sessions you can do in a day, the better. Through that training you want to get a good ‘down stay’, meaning the dog should not get up until a release command is given. This means you need to start training this at a close distance to the dog, just a few feet at first, and try to give a release command before the has time to get up. This allows the dog to succeed in what you have asked. The goal is to eventually be able to put the dog in a down stay while you move out of site. This will start the process of the dog learning to be alone. Continue training throughout the dog’s life to keep from backslides. This does not mean it has to be formal, like every day at 2:30, it means to ask for a command anytime you are with the dog and be sure the dog can succeed at giving it to you for praise or a treat. This is all to build self-confidence.
I would also invest in some mind stimulating toys such as the talk to me treat ball, ( this is a ball that you can hide treats in and as the dog rolls it a recording of your voice is played) the Kong stuffed with cream cheese and frozen, the buster cube where kibble or treats are placed inside, and the Kong Genius. This is all to keep the dog’s mind occupied while you are away from home.
You will also have to change your routine a bit so the dog never really knows if you are coming or going. I would start this training on a weekend or at a time you don’t have work or have any appointments and I would do it all day long. What you are going do is change your behavior which the dog has learned that you are about to leave. Whatever your routine entails prior to you normally leaving are things you want to change. This means everything from taking that morning shower before work to picking up your keys and leaving the house.
Some find it helpful to make a list of things they normally do before leaving because humans are so automated, we do things that we don’t even realize, but the dog picks them up as cues. For instance, my dogs could determine when my husband was going to work or going to the grocery store by the jacket he wore. Going to the grocery store meant they were going for a fun ride so they got excited. You want to do these things all throughout the day, preferably for a couple of days in a row, but never really leave the home for hours at a time. So pick your keys up, jiggle them a little and put them down again , put your coat on walk around the house a bit and take it off, get dressed for the day then get redressed for bed. If you take a shower in the morning each day change that to a nighttime shower and interchange them on days you are home or away. Do not give goodbyes or hellos. Do not acknowledge the dog for at least 15 minutes before you leave and after coming home.
Soft talk and acknowledgement of a dog that is acting nervous is actually rewarding to that dog. When you think about training a dog, we ask for something from them, they do it, we praise them. When it comes to doggie habits, they paw our arm and we pet them, so it works because the reinforcement of petting was immediate. When you acknowledge a scared dog with petting or soft talk it is actually a reward and so the behavior continues and gets worse over time.
When training in commands to succeed I find it helpful to use the clicker (which can be found in any pet store) as it is used as a marker over the person’s voice. Sometimes when humans train strictly with their voice, their frustration comes out and the dog hears that, which then makes the dog more nervous. So clicker training is simply giving the dog a command and waiting for the dog to complete that command, then use the clicker as a marker to tell the dog that they did the right thing, then praise & reward. Sometimes the clicker noise frightens a dog, so in that instance you will want to use your voice as the marker but keep it to one word such as “TIP.” There are also clickers that make a louder sound and some that are softer so play around and see if one will work for your dog.
The clicker costs about 3 dollars in a pet store and if you cannot find a treat bag for your belt use an old fanny pack. Not quite as stylish but it works! For reward I prefer very small soft treats so there is nothing that can crumble to the ground when chewed. When items like biscuits are used and the fall out of the dog’s mouth to the floor it takes the dog’s attention off of you.
Items you may want to try along with training: a thunder/anxiety wrap, a DAP diffuser, ( I have heard through customers that the diffuser works better in home situations than the collar) You may want to try over the counter Melatonin but always consult your vet before using any over the counter meds. I usually use this for dogs with anxiety to noise and separation. There are also a CD’s out called Through A Dogs Ear found on Amazon that I have found helpful to my own dogs in having them rest more peaceably. Youtube also plays 3 or more hours of dog calming music. There is also a stuffed dog with a heart beat that can help calm some dogs.
This video explains separation anxiety https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxgkLA6__iM
There is also a trick that has worked for owners and that is using an airline crate and filling it with straw up to the dog’s chest. Very important it be up to the chest of the dog.
Here is a good video on this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmAIqLWTf9k
As well, some customers have taken clothes with their scent on them and stuffed them to make the dog think a person is with them. I have not tried this but never say never! Amazon sells fully body type that you can do this with. Amazon.com: Morris Costumes Costumes For All Occasions Mr124202 Dummy Poseable With Hands-Arms : Clothing, Shoes & Jewelry
Keep in mind that a dog with a case of separation anxiety is normally attached to the owner so getting another dog to help with separation anxiety may not help the dog at all, but cause you more headaches. However I also say “never say never” especially if you have adopted an older dog because you may not know if that dog was actually attached to another animal before it came to live with you so it would not do any harm to having a family member or friend’s dog stay with your dog for a couple of days to see if it helps.
Below are sites to aid you in finding what I have mentioned above.
Melatonin is found in drug stores by vitamins. Use only if not on other meds. Make sure the brand does not contain xylitol http://www.petplace.com/article/drug-library/library/prescription/melatonin-melatonex
Melatonin in the Uk
You can also try Zylkene instead of Melatonin.
Through a dogs ear calming CD
Calming music on youtube to try out
Puppy toy with heart beat.
Kong these work great when stuffed with cream cheese and frozen
Treat dispensing balls https://www.chewy.com/pet-zone-iq-treat-dispenser-ball-dog/dp/142885
Dog Puzzles:. If you just type in dog puzzles on amazon you will come to a page full. I just happened to pick this one . PetCo also carries dog puzzles.
Confidence building skills – sprinkles
Noise canceling headphones for dogs
Recorder for the dog’s collar with your message on it
More Separation Anxiety tips