How to Make Your Dog More Independent
Dogs are more anxious creatures than you might expect! Being ‘man’s best friend,’ tail wagging and smiles may make people think that they’re always happy and calm. With the continuing pandemic our fur babies have become even more attached to us. According to vets, going back to our usual schedules outside of the pandemic may have more effect on our fur babies than we might think.
Dogs can sense our emotions and often our feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, etc can ‘rub off’ on them too. During the pandemic, there have been widespread reports of increased feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, stress and hopelessness. There has recently been a shortage of anxiety and depression medication, such as Prozac, in Australia for both people and dogs. “The manufacturer of Prozac, Eli Lilly, cites “unexpected increase in demand” during the crisis.”
In addition to this, “a recent study on 14,000 dogs from 264 breeds suggests that anxious behaviours may be more widespread. The largest ever study on canine temperaments showed evidence that nearly three quarter of the pets (72.5%) displayed at least one anxiety related behaviour – and the relevant behavioural issues linked to those, such as barking or aggressiveness – with some variation across breeds.”
Understanding separation anxiety and utilising some of the tips below can help your pup to become more independent, less stressed and hopefully able to avoid or wean them off medicines like Prozac.
- The most important tip to help with separation anxiety in dogs is to teach your dog that it’s okay to spend time on their own and build their confidence. If you are home all day, create frequent separations from your dog. Put them outside to bask in the sun for half an hour to an hour a few times a day, or if they are crate trained, use that.
- Make sure your dog has their own special area. This can be a crate, their kennel, an area of the house or backyard. Crate training, especially if you have a new puppy, is one of the best ways to achieve this. Create their own space with their bed, their favourite toys, a blanket and water. Use positive reinforcement when sending them to their area for alone time with a toy or long lasting treat. This also keeps them occupied whilst being alone.
- Desensitise your dog to your departure. Don’t make a big show and dance every time you leave or come home. Try to mix up your routine, grab your keys and bag but stay in the house to normalise these items. You can also try leaving them in increments. By leaving the house calmly for 5 minutes, coming back and increasing the length of time each time. When you return home don’t make them excited, ignore them until they calm down, then you can say hello.
- Make sure they are physically and mentally stimulated.
Walk and play with your dog regularly and for the right amount of time for their breed. Some require more stimulation than others. Give them access to long lasting chews or bones while you are gone. Or try toys and games like a Kong to keep them entertained.
- If possible, let them inside. Provide an environment where your dog can relax when no one is home, for lots of dogs, this can be achieved by giving them access to part of the warm and cosy house.