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An important part of owning a dog is training him: training him to be obedient, teaching him where in the home he is allowed to go, and helping him to adapt to spending time on his own. While training a dog to be alone isn’t a specific part of their upbringing, most dogs learn to cope very well when you are out and about without them.
Some dogs, however, don’t adapt to this, and show signs of separation anxiety when you are not home. You may come back and find your couch torn, or your door scratched where he has tried to escape. Your neighbors will tell you that he howled constantly and only stopped when you returned.
What do you do? Firstly, engage the help of a veterinary behaviorist and get a prescription for medication to help him relax as he is retrained.
It’s a great idea to crate train him, because this can then be used as his “safe place” while he is learning to be on his own. Spend a few weeks teaching him to relax in the crate, before you start to work on is separation anxiety.
When he is crate trained, you can then start to leave him on his own, while you are still home. Pop him inside his crate, then walk out of the room for just a second or two. The idea is that he mustn’t be distressed during this time; make sure you are back before he becomes nervous. Open his crate, and don’t go overboard with your praise. Your return should be calm and very low-key.
This is the basis of retraining a dog with separation anxiety. Very slowly, you can increase the time you are out of the room, always returning before he becomes nervous or anxious. Over weeks or months, you should be able to leave him crated for longer periods, and you may even be able to start to leave the house.
In Summary – It’s a long slow process and there is no 100% guarantee that it will work for every dog. Having said that, it is well worth trying because if it works, you’ll remove a major source of stress from your dog’s life.
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