While it may be a term you’re more familiar hearing about in children, separation anxiety is a very real problem for many dogs. It can be a contributing factor to problem behaviors like barking, inappropriate chewing and even accidents in the house. While anxiety can affect any breed, it’s more common in dogs that need a lot of companionships and attention like the Yorkshire terrier. Whether you have a new puppy or an older Yorkie, there are some things you can do to help decrease the symptoms and the problem behaviors that go along with it.
1. Don’t over-comfort your puppy
While it may seem natural to want to shower your dog with affection and reassuring words when they’re upset that you’re leaving, this can actually backfire and reinforce the behavior. Your dog looks to you to set the tone, and if you respond to the first signs of anxiety with “Oh, you poor thing! You must be so scared, but don’t worry, I’ll be back as soon as I can,” your dog senses that you’re worried, and it makes them even more worried. Instead, focus on projecting calm, matter-of-fact energy that communicates to your dog that everything is OK and this is no big deal.
2. Leaving your scent can help your dog relax
Dogs are pack animals, and many dog breeds just don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time. You can help reassure your Yorkie that they haven’t been left alone forever and give them some comfort by leaving behind something that smells like you. It can be a blanket or shirt or even a dog toy that you’ve carried around all day to help it get your scent. This can be especially helpful if you’re leaving your dog in a new place like with a pet sitter or at a boarding facility.
3. Activities to occupy your puppy while you’re away
Yorkies need a lot of mental stimulation, and a day spent in the crate without you or anything to do gives them little to do but worry about when you’re coming home. Make alone time a good thing instead of a problem by leaving them with a special treat-stuffed toy they only get when you leave. There are a lot of different types out there with differing degrees of difficulty, depending on how good your dog is at getting the treats out. Go with something that presents a decent challenge so it eats up some time, but not one that’s so difficult your dog gives up. Puzzle toys are another good option for when you’re going to be gone for a while.
4. Seek help from a professional dog trainer
There are differing degrees of separation anxiety, and if the above tactics don’t help — keeping in mind that it may take some time and nothing is instant — it may be time to talk to a dog trainer. Separation anxiety can sometimes be caused by other issues, such as not enough socialization or not getting enough exercise. A professional dog trainer or behaviorist can help you identify the root cause of your puppy’s anxiousness and give you the tools you need to help your Yorkie relax and be content, even when you aren’t around.