Treatment Type: Training Techniques
Rated for: Poodle
Posted Nov. 20, 2017
Desensitizing a dog to being left alone is an important part of solving separation anxiety and behaviors that are caused by it. It is important for the dog's view and experience of being alone to change from the current fear filled one to a more pleasant and relaxing experience.
Desensitizing a dog to your leaving routine can also help. Many dogs work themselves into a state of high anxiety as they watch you prepare to depart. This departure routine can be a short few minutes for some or as long as hours, starting with something like your morning shower, giving the dog the opportunity to gradually increase its own anxiety until the dog is at the point of not being able to calm itself at all while you are gone. Helping the dog to break that anxious cycle can make it easier for the dog to be calm while you are gone, since the dog did not have the chance to already have built up high levels of cortisol in its body over a period of time.
When the dog is starting at a less anxious state, then other tools and training are more likely to be effective, such as environmental enrichment, like treat stuffed Kongs and puzzle toys, or training that interrupts anxious behavior and rewards calm behavior and teaches the dog appropriate ways to manage alone time. Or more general training that focuses on teaching the dog new independent skills, to help the dog manage its own time alone and emotions better.
Desensitization alone can take a very long time to solve separation anxiety, and for many dogs it never completely solves the anxiety or the behaviors that were originally caused by the anxiety, but it can provide a way for other training to be more effective at solving the anxiety and behaviors, and it should be included in a treatment plan to increase overall effectiveness.