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What is separation Anxiety?

There is nothing worse than coming home from work to find that your dog has destroyed the couch, chewed the door frame, gone through the window screen, eaten the drywall….the list goes on. You, the owner, may wonder why your dog doesn’t display this behavior when you are home. That’s the answer. You are home. Your dog doesn’t want you to leave. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. Your dog needs to learn to self –soothe and with that, you will be returning and good things will happen when you come home.

Working through Separation Anxiety/Distress is a process. With a dedicated and caring family, your dog will learn to build a relationship on trust. The family will learn what stresses their dog and how to reduce those stress triggers and create a calm home.

Causes and Contributors

  • Fear of abandonment caused by various issues: family changes, house guests, rescues, strays, etc.
  • Change in the dogs’ daily routine.
  • Change in the owners’ daily routine.
  • Moving to a new home or other major changes in the environment.

Typical Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
When people experience stress or anxiety they often attempt to relieve their stress by chewing their nails, chain smoking, pacing or exhibiting other behaviors. Dogs have similar stress relieving behaviors and which typically include one or more of the following:

  • Vocalizing
  • Destructive chewing
  • Eliminating (This is often a separation issue and not a housebreaking issue)
  • Obsessive attachment to family members
  • Acute alertness to owner’s every move
  • Vigorously attempting to escape
  • Excessive drooling or panting when left alone
  • Self mutilation, caused by excessive licking or chewing of paws or tail

Remedies for Separation Anxiety
Once your puppy has been fully vaccinated, make sure that he/she gets plenty of outdoor exercise and stimulation. Backyard exercise is not enough. Appropriate outlets for your dogs’ natural energy are: leash walks, puppy play dates, agility or obedience classes, playing fetch, running in the park or any other ways you can tire your dog out. The saying is… “A good dog is a tired dog”. Good exercise will reduce your dogs’ stress, destructiveness, boredom and hyperactivity.

Provide your dog with toys during your departure that will create mental stimulation. There are a variety of interesting toys in the marketplace for your dog. Please look for the toys that are interactive food/treat dispensers. This sort of toy is great way to get your dog to utilize his problem-solving skills. Your dog will use his paws and his nose to get the treats out of the shapes.

Keep your farewells and returns very low-key. You may even consider ignoring your dog for a few minutes before you leave and even a few minutes after you return. The purpose of ignoring your dog is to alleviate the emotional roller-coaster many dogs experience when owners come and go. Your dog will learn that he/she will receive greetings from you when he/she has settled down.

Do not reward barking, whining, jumping, pawing or any other attention seeking behaviors with any attention from you. Negative attention is just as good as positive attention. Avoid eye contact and physical contact. You want to praise your dog for calm, quiet behavior with calm, quiet praise from you.

Your veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety (anti-depressant) medication to decrease the symptoms while the behavioral modification (training) is taking place.

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