In order to understand beagle separation anxiety, we have to start with the basic concept of sociability of beagles. Beagles are pack animals and when you bring them home, you and your family become their pack. When you leave your home they start getting anxious about you not coming back.
Separation anxiety is a serious issue and your beagle really suffers. Some beagles are anxious from the beginning of the day knowing that you will be leaving. Some signs of beagle separation anxiety are: barking, messes, chewing, digging, whining, howling, crying, salivation in excess, self-harming. And all of that in EXCESS!
The inexperienced beagle owner might be pleased to see that their beagle has missed them so much and quickly change their minds when they cannot cope with angry neighbors and destroyed living rooms.
TIP 1 – Is it just boredom?
This could be really good news because it is much easier to deal with boredom than with separation anxiety. Dealing with boredom is a matter of understanding that your beagle was bred to work and it is hard for them to stay alone for long periods of time with nothing to do.
If the mess is in different rooms of your house but not near the door, it is probably boredom. If the damage is around the exit area, it actually means that your beagle was trying to get out to find you.
Exercise your beagle both physically and mentally and leave them toys, especially toys that release treats when you are away. In other words, leave them a task to complete during your absence.
TIP 2 – Train your beagle against separation anxiety
Step 1 – Desensitization
Your beagle has observed you and has made certain mental connections: “the sound of your keys, you putting on your shoes or your coat = you are leaving”.
What you need to do first is to take a couple of days to break those connections. Put on your shoes and coat, take your keys, and then sit down and do something else. Repeat this several times per day for a couple of days to erase those “cues” from your beagle’s brain.
Step 2 – Adaptation
What you need to do next is to help your beagle to getting used to your leaving. Leave for short periods of time and come back to teach them that you are coming back. Increase the period of time you are away gradually. Leave for 1 or 2 minutes first. Then extend it to 5 to ten minutes and so on and so forth.
TIP 3 – Don’t make a big deal about your leaving or coming back
In other words, ignore your beagle just before leaving and after you come back until they calm down. If you pet and try to comfort your beagle when you return, you are not helping but making matters worse. In their beagle mind they think that they were right to be anxious, otherwise it wouldn’t be such a big deal that you came back.
TIP 4 – Consistency is the key
You and all the rest of the members of the household should remain consistent about your beagle’s training and the separation anxiety rules that you set. Everybody needs to be on the same page and follow the same rules and procedures. That means that nobody should make a big deal about leaving or coming back.
TIP 5 – Punishment is not the solution
Don’t resort to punishment. It doesn’t work; actually you will make your beagle even more anxious. Remember that your dog is already suffering and it is not a good idea to add to their ordeal.
Correction (not punishment) only works when you catch your beagle doing something wrong and you correct them by showing what you expect them to learn. They can make the connection then between what they are doing and what they should be doing instead. Correction after the fact doesn’t work because your beagle cannot connect even events that occurred 10 minutes ago.
Give your beagle special toys and treats when you leave but only when you leave. They have to be special toys and treats and cannot be the same toy or treat they get when you are home. This way they would be looking forward to your leaving.
You might want to check our beagle crate training resources. A crate is not supposed to work as punishment but as a safe place for your beagle to stay. If you leave your beagle in their crate, leave something with your smell there as well.
You might also want to try leaving the radio, the TV or some soothing music on.
Exercise your beagle. Beagles are active dogs and they need physical exercise and as well as mental stimulation. Practice the commands you are teaching your beagle daily several times per day. Take them out on a walk and make them really tired, especially before you leave.
Separation anxiety can be a complicated issue that requires different measures depending on its severity and the reasons that cause it. To get a thorough plan to deal with separation anxiety and stop your beagle from suffering as soon as humanly possible, read the section on separation anxiety of the Secrets to Dog Training starting on page 161.