Helping a Little Dog with a Big Separation Anxiety Problem

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 5, 2021

For today’s Santa Monica dog training session we worked with Mocha a 1 year-old Pomeranian who has a case of separation anxiety.

Mocha had been spayed a week prior to our session so she was wearing a protective cone. Because she had been confined up till now due to the surgery, she probably had more energy than she normally did for the first part of our session.

I waited for her to calm down before I started to engage with her. This was a partial success, but because she was so riled up, likely due to the confinement, I knew I needed to give her another way to release some of her pent up energy. When I fished a bully stick out of my bag, it was a match made in heaven. Mocha played around with it for about 30 seconds before she laid down to get her chew on.

Providing your dog with some thing to do is called enrichment and it is one of the more overlooked aspects of having a happy dog. Chewing is a great way for dogs to release tension and it’s also fun for them to do too. This is particularly helpful for dogs who are recovering from a surgery and need to be limited in their movements like little Mocha.

I also recommended the guardians feed her out of a snuffle mat, even after she recovers. When a dog works for its food this way, it gets a boost of self-esteem and confidence while simultaneously slowing down the dog’s eating speed. Its also an activity that can boost a dog’s self-esteem and confidence.

I recommended the guardians get some treat dispensing toys, high-value chew items, a lick matt, have a few small 1 to 2 minute training sessions a day and do a Google search for scent games; a wonderful way to burn a dog’s energy. I even went over the cookie in the corner game with them to introduce a command cue for scent games.

Next we were ready to address Mocha’s primary dog behavior problem; separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a panic attack that a dog suffers when it is not practiced at being left alone. This happens very frequently because we love our dogs and are with them or touching them almost the entire time we are home. The problem with this is when we do leave the home, the dog goes from 100% access of us to zero which is the biggest range there is . This is frequently an unsettling experience for many dogs.

If you have a dog that has separation anxiety, it’s important that you find ways for them to practice being home alone while they are calm. This is the key to solving a dog’s separation anxiety problem.

The thing you absolutely want to avoid if you have a dog with separation anxiety is punishing or correcting them for getting worked up when they recognize you are leaving or if they do something while you were gone. Any form of correction or punishment will almost certainly make the situation worse. Sadly, many people take it personally when the dog loses control of his bowels or choose something up thinking the dog did it intentionally to “get even.” Fortunately Mocha’s guardians are not in the blame or punishment camp,

Stopping separation anxiety in dogs is not difficult but it does take consistent practice. It’s not hard practice, anyone can do it, even if you’re not a professional Pomeranian dog trainer. I pulled up my phone and handed it to one of the guardians so that she could record me while I shared the secret to stopping separation anxiety in dogs. If you’re looking for help with your dogs separation anxiety, check out the free positive dog training video below.

The video turned out to be a little bit longer than I had anticipated, but it’s important to have all of the steps down and to work on them successfully before moving to the next level of difficulty. The guardians may need to watch parts of the video at a time as they follow this proceedure to treat separationa anxiety in their dog. One of the most common reasons people are unable to fix their dog’s separation anxiety problem is only working on it infrequently.

I’d like to see the guardians practicing the desensitization exercises for the triggers that represent their departure with Mocha a few times a day, every day for a week or two. By that point, she should not be reactive when she sees those individual triggers, that’s when the guardians can start combining them together until they can string them all in a row without Mocha getting upset.

The guardians can also practice the stay exercise in short successful sessions multiple times a day. This way they can make quicker time by practicing the separate elements before they are linked.

The guardians can also set Mocha up for success by exercising her prior to practice, getting a dog bed and helping her understand that she is rewarded when she goes there by tossing treats and avoid leaving her alone as much as possible. Obviously not leaving the dogs alone is difficult to do, which is why it’s important to practice multiple times a day in short successful practice sessions to speed up the process of fixing the separatin anxiety problem.

To help the guardians remember all of the dog behavior tips we shared in this in-home Santa Monica dog training session, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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