How can I cure my dog’s separation anxiety?

Some dogs cannot be apart from their owners. In extreme circumstances, a dog may become upset if its owner leaves the room. More commonly, dogs will become stressed and destructive if their owners leave the house or sleep in a different room. The good news is, if your dog becomes anxious when it is separated from you and destroys your furniture or misbehaves, there are things you can do to improve the situation.

First, it is important to note that punishment won’t remedy the problem. While it is disappointing to come home to a chewed couch or a mess caused by your dog, shouting at your dog won’t stop the behaviour in the future. Dogs do not understand punishment for something they have done previously and associate it only with what they are doing at that moment. Therefore, they will not make the connection between you being angry now and something they did hours ago. Physical punishment is not the solution.

Your first stop should be your vet. You will need to rule out any medical conditions that may be causing your dog’s unruly behaviour. If there are none, you can take steps at home to calm your dog down.

Training works best when it starts early. Even if you don’t intend to go out, teach your dog or puppy to get used to your absence for short periods of time. You may only be in a different room, but this will teach your dog that being alone isn’t scary and is nothing to worry about. Gradually increase the time you leave your dog alone. To do this effectively, you will need space in your house in which you are happy to leave your dog unattended. This involves placing your dog in a pet-safe crate for short periods of time.

Most dogs feel anxious within the first 40 minutes of being left alone, so once you have worked your way up to 45 minutes of your absence, it is probably safe for you to start increasing the time you are away. It is however not advised that you leave your dog for more than four hours at a time.

A reason dogs may start to chew your furniture while you are out of the house is boredom. A popular way of distracting your dog is to leave toys containing treats or food that require your dog to figure out how to get to the food. You may also leave chew toys to give your dog something to gnaw on. Ensure these toys are vet-approved and are suitable for unsupervised play.

Also read: Dental care for your dog

The best way to ensure your dog remains calm in your absence is to provide plenty of playtime and physical activity when you are home. Create a routine so your dog looks forward to playtime rather than becoming nervous about you leaving.

For all of the tips provided above, consistency is key. Above all, be patient. You will not see changes in your anxious dog overnight, but keep at it for a month and you will see improvement.

Dr Sara Elliott is a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and leads a team of experienced vets and nurses at the British Veterinary Hospital in Dubai. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.