How To Treat Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety – Part 4

Dogs who have mild separation anxiety can likely be effectively treated by their owners and we’ll outline how to do that here. Dogs with moderate to severe separation anxiety are harder to treat and owners should enroll the services of a professional canine behavior consultant, or risk making the dog worse. 

Treating mild separation anxiety – Mild separation anxiety is treated by a process known as counterconditioning. This process involves associating the feared situation (or object , animal or person) with something the dog really likes. Then, over time, the dog comes to associate the unpleasant situation with something good. 

For dogs with separation anxiety, you want to develop an association between the dog being left alone and something good, such as a good tasting treat or toy stuffed with food. To implement this method, give your dog a toy or dog puzzle that is stuffed with a food that will take him twenty minutes or more to finish eating.

Many of the tough and durable rubber toys have a hollow compartment which can be filled with food. Most of these toys can also be frozen, which will add to the time it will take your dog to finish the food. Use foods like cream cheese, peanut butter, canned or dry dog food, or even a frozen banana.

But here’s the thing to remember: as soon as you get home, remove the toys so that your dog can only have them when you are gone and he is left alone by himself.

Also keep in mind that this treatment usually only works for mild cases of separation anxiety, as dogs who are extremely anxious will not usually eat when their owner is away.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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