Leave Me with a Challenging Treat

“Always do what is best for your dog, not what is convenient for you.”

Welcome to the first African Dog Whisperer blog piece!

This week we are talking about separation anxiety and some helpful ways to help our dogs cope with this complex situation.

Lockdown has left our canines’ almost always by our side (lucky for us), which may have caused some psychological problems such as an intensified level of separation anxiety. A common problem dog owner’s make is spending either too much and/or too little time with their dog, without teaching them how to be alone when they are not home.

You never want to let your puppy or dog get used to receiving attention 24/7, because it can lead to high separation anxiety when you do leave them and cause other behavioural issues. Balance is the most important thing when it comes to owning an animal, which includes the amount of time we spend with them.

When trying to understand our dogs and their needs, we need to look at their canine biology and psychology. It is important to understand a dog in their natural state as well as what they need in a natural environment. Once we take dogs out of nature, everything changes. We expect them to adapt to us and our lifestyles without understanding their natural instincts and needs. This is an unfair expectation as they are both biologically and psychologically unprepared to deal with our modern lives. So, it is our responsibility to teach them!

The process of conditioning is not so simple, but there are a few things we can do to help our doggies feel less anxious and concerned about our return!

A great solution to this problem can be:

  1. To fill a Kong toy with their own dog food and let them eat it  at mealtime, this toy is designed to challenge your dog with an easy but great mental game.
  2. Play home DIY games with healthy treats and doggie peanut butter. Click Here for a super fun and easy game you can play with just some treats and a towel
  3. Leave them with a chewy natural treat like biltong, to help keep their focus for a period of time

All these methods keep your dog mentally stimulated while you are out and leave less chance of them chewing up your favorite pair of shoes :) Natural, long lasting treats, are more rewarding as they motivate your dog to keep going until he/she is finished the treat, which therefore fulfills a part of their need for a purpose. These kinds of treats are psychologically and mentally stimulating as once your dog has finished eating the treat/bone/Kong, they feel accomplished and proud of themselves which in turn boosts their confidence levels. This is an important part of your dog’s mental health for their specific breed purpose and we as owners need to make sure that purpose is fulfilled.

The action of leaving our dogs with a treat not only relates “leaving” (for a period of time) to create a positive experience but also keeps them challenged and not bored. The idea of keeping them stimulated is not reserved only for separation anxiety but should be done daily in order to keep these games a positively reinforced experience and not only associated with leaving, otherwise it will be counterproductive.

Remember our dogs look to us for guidance, we need to be good leaders for them! Keep safe, happy and healthy :)

Until the next time! - Bianca-Abigail Promnitz 

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