Separation Anxiety

Anxiety & Boredom

Dog Separation Anxiety and Boredom 

One of the leading causes for animals to be surrendered to shelters or rescues is destructive chewing.  Some people realize after getting a dog that they start to destroy things in the house and they think the dog is a bad dog.  The dog is not a bad dog just bored out of its mind because no one will play with or entertain them.  Dogs act out just like kids when they want your attention.  

There are two types of energy:  Brain energy, which causes us to be tired when we use this type of energy and physical energy, which only takes a short time to recover.  Brain energy can be associated to being taught a new computer program at work.  After you have spent an entire day learning a new computer program you feel exhausted and most often want to take a nap after work.  Physical energy can be associated with walking five miles, aerobic exercise, or jogging.  After you do this, you may feel tired, but physical energy provides you with good cardiovascular exercise and restored energy.  Animals need both types of exercise, however, brain energy is more exhausting and helps destructive behaviors.   

What is Brain Energy?

Brain energy is what we use or exhaust so to speak when we have to figure something out, like learning a new computer program or figuring out a puzzle.  When you give your dog a toy and they have to figure out how to get the treat, they use brain energy.  Your dog has to spend time thinking about how to roll it a certain way to get the reward.  Chewing is also a natural behavior for dogs and working a treat toy to get the treat is very rewarding.  Some dogs take a long time to figure out how to get the reward, other dogs only a short period of time.  We call these toys educational treat toys because they provide stimulation for your dog that exhaust brain energy.  

Some dogs that become very destructive with their separation anxiety need lots of little games or puzzles to keep their mind busy so they will not eat the house while you are at work.  For example, once your dog masters treat toys and can get the rewards fairly quickly.  Now change the game and hide the treat toy in the house when you leave for work.  (Make sure your dog doesn’t see you hiding them.  Remember it’s a game of hide and seek with a yummy smelly treat toys.)  If your dog masters that one, the next thing would be to purchase different educational treat toys and hide them throughout the house.  If that is not working, take smelly treats and lather them in peanut butter or yogurt and fill the toy.  Then take the toy and put it in the freezer overnight.  Once this little cocktail is frozen give it to your dog to figure out.  The freezing makes it take longer to get at the treats.

 What is Physical Energy?

Physical energy is what dogs use when they catch a flying squirrel, tennis ball or Jolly Ball.  A dog uses physical energy to run and play at the dog park.  All dogs need to exhaust this type of energy.  Dogs can recoup pretty fast from a day at the dog park.  Most dogs are bred to be physically fit, so exercising is not something new to a dog.

You can turn physical energy into brain energy very easily.   For example if you are playing with Chuck It and tossing the tennis ball for your dog, ask your dog to sit and stay. Then toss the ball.  Let your dog watch the tennis ball launch into the air and land.  Then release your dog to go get the ball.  Now you are taking a physical game of fetch and turning it into a game where you dog needs to use his brain to think.  Making your dog wait until you say “Okay” will exhaust brain energy.  Now your dog is thinking about what you want from him instead of just chase the ball.   If you have to take baby steps, start with holding the tennis ball in one hand and your dog’s collar in the other hand.  Give the command “sit” and “stay” then slowly toss the ball.  If your dog tries to run after it, correct the dog and put him back in a “sit-stay” position.  Once you have received the command that you have asked for, release the dog to get the ball. Give your dog Big Cheerleader praises when the dog returns with the ball.  Continue to repeat this until your dog can hold a “sitstay” position without the assistance of you holding onto his collar.  Once you have done that, you have exhausted brain energy and your dog will now think this game of fetch has a whole new meaning.
Other things that you can do, is to take the simple things in life and turn them into brain energy training time.  For example, if you free feed your dog a treat for just being cute STOP!!!   Practice the rule “Nothing in life is for FREE” your dog should do something to earn a treat, even if it means sit, lie down, stand pretty, or roll over.   We feed treats throughout our day, however every time we give our dog a treat, we expect something in return because “Nothing in life is for Free”.  We have taught all sorts of little tricks with just 5-minute training sessions per day.  We have taught our dogs to turn right, turn left, roll over and a host of other neat tricks.  It doesn’t take a lot of energy to do, just time out of your day.  Once you make it a routine in your day to train your dog, it becomes a habit not a training session.