Alaskan Husky's Forum
1.5-year-old Alaskan Husky with significant separation anxiety
My girlfriend and I recently got an Alaskan Husky from a shelter and are having difficulty teaching her how to control her fear. She can be the best dog in the world on some days, but most of the time we arrive home to find her bed strewn across the room or her box strewn across the room with shredded blankets. We just moved into a new house, and her behaviour hasn't changed much. We had exhausted all other options before resorting to medication, but we were curious as to what else was available. She can only stay in her crate for four hours at a time, however she can stay there for ten minutes before trashing it. She is not destructive when we are at home, but the moment we leave, she goes on a rampage.
You’ve heard the saying, “A tired dog is a happy dog,” right? A tired dog is less likely to become destructive, so lace up those sneakers and grab the dog’s leash because it’s time to go walking. If you can jog or run, that’s even better. An active dog will need both physical and mental stimulation, so give your dog some time to sniff things on your walk. The best time to exercise your dog is 20-30 minutes before you leave, giving your dog enough time to settle down for a nap.
You probably have your morning routine down pat: wake up, eat breakfast, take a shower, get dressed, grab your keys and your bag or wallet, kiss your dog, put on your shoes, and walk out the door. Dogs can pick up these departure cues amazingly fast.
Although it’ll take a lot of work on your part, one way to desensitize your dog to your departure routine is to perform parts of it even when you’re not leaving. Pick up your keys and sit down for a cup of coffee. Get dressed in your work clothes or suit, then watch a show on Netflix.
You can also mix up pieces of your routine so that your departure is less predictable. For example, you can put your bag or briefcase in your car, then come back and enjoy your breakfast.
Kissing and hugging our dogs before we leave for work is very tempting, but try to make your exit as uneventful and calm as possible. It is best to ignore your dog for at least 15 minutes before you leave with a “safe cue,” such as “I’ll be back.” If your dog gets excited when you return, turn your back towards him and wait to greet him until he calms down.
Reward your dog with treats, praise, and/or attention when he is resting or being calm. This means no attention-seeking behavior such as jumping, whining, barking, or panting. Start the training process with your dog close by, and have a cue word like “easy” or “calm” for when he is relaxed. Slowly increase the distance between you and your dog when your dog over several weeks, continuing to reward good behavior. While this will be time-consuming, it can have a massive ROI.
We’ve repeated this point throughout the article, but it bears repeating: Do not punish your dog for separation anxiety. Not everything will work for every dog, nor should you expect your dog to be cured in a matter of days. It will take effort and time — lots of them. Your dog may have good days and bad days, but the key is to stay calm and to be willing to change things up if something doesn’t work well.
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