The biggest myth out there is to use food.
“If we can get our dog eating out of a kong it will solve the problem”. In reality this is not the case. I have heard so many times “I give my dog a kong before I leave and he is okay … until the food runs out”
- We know from research that many dogs with separation anxiety won’t eat when they are alone and scared.
- If a dog will eat then as soon as the food runs out then your dog will panic, you are just delaying it.
- Food can be a crutch; it makes them feel better about being alone just like things like chewing – but the food will run out, while you are out of the house.
- A kong appearing can predict that you are about to go out and trigger your dog’s anxiety.
- Remote feeders are exciting, you want a calm relaxed dog while you are out, plus he will see you prepare it before you go out.
- The order of events is wrong, a reinforcer should appear after the trigger/scary thing for classical conditioning to take place.
He will grow out of it
He won’t, the more times he is terrified and panicking left alone, the more he will continue to panic. It is more likely to get worse that better.
Crating your dog
Another big myth is that crating your dog will fix their separation anxiety when we know it won’t.
If you put your dog in a crate, yes it will stop him soiling or destroying your house but you aren’t changing how your dog feels about being home all alone. All crates do is lock your dog in with his fear. Many dogs who have a fear of being alone also have a fear of confinement and if they seem ‘calm’ in a crate there is a chance it can be learned helplessness not calmness.
Puppies can come genetically hard wired for separation anxiety, or might have had an early bad experience of being left alone before before you had chance to teach him that it is okay and safe. But people will say that your puppy cannot possibly have separation anxiety, he is just being a puppy and then they are left to cry it out and end up with a worse problem.
My dog knows he did wrong
“He looks guilty”
No, he wasn’t doing it to get back at you for leaving him on his own when he destroys your sofa or poos in your hallway. Research indicates that dogs don’t feel guilt, it is more likely anxiety/ fear/submission because of the response he will get from you when you see it.
Your first step to helping your dog
Join the Happy Dog Project.
Its a free membership for help with all kinds of fear and anxiety related behaviours.