“Don’t Goooooo!”

0 Comments Posted by admin in Pet Care on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014.

“Don’t Goooooo!” Coping with separation anxiety

 

             Separation anxiety in dogs can be a serious issue. Like a “this isn’t going to work anymore” issue, and unfortunetly, behavior issues are the number one reason dogs end up in shelters. Do you find yourself thinking “What is wrong with my dog- where are his manners??!” Well the behavior you’re seeing just might be signs of separation anxiety.

            Separation anxiety is exactly what it sounds like- anxiety triggered by being separated from their owner, or guardian. Your dog might pace, bark, or start being destructive by chewing or digging, and if you’re really lucky- can include urinating and defecating in the house. And really, who wants to come home to that?

            There’s really no clear reason as to WHY a dog develops separation anxiety. Some dogs may already have an anxious or high-strung personality, or it can be initiated by an unpleasant experience with change within their pack, or household. Being adopted and going into a new environment can certainly be stressful. Leaving a previous owner or being re-homed due to an owner’s death can be pretty traumatic. Even moving your residence may simply be enough to make your dog insecure and fearful about being left alone.

            So, where do you go from here? Well there’s plenty of ways to tackle your dog’s problems. You can start by simply crate training your dog. Dogs are “den” animals after all, and can find great comfort in simply having a quiet space of their own to retreat to. However, for some dogs being confined in a crate only amplifies their stress and they can even cause self injury by trying to escape. They may be less stressed being confined to a single room or area of the house with a baby gate.

            Make sure your dog truly suffers from separation anxiety, rather than boredom. For the most part, dogs have a ton of energy. Remember, while we’re sitting at work, or are busy running errands, they are just sitting at home, left to their own devices. Exercise is key! Make sure your dog gets at least 30 mins to an hour of exercise a day. Whether that’s a walk around the block or playing frisbee in the back yard- get rid of that pent up energy! Mental stimulation is great as well. Maybe leave a puzzle treat or stuffed Kong toy that they ONLY get while they’re home alone. This can distract them from the “leaving” process. Put it away as soon as you return. This will make them associate a special treat with being left alone.

            Mild cases can be counter conditioned- meaning exposing your pet to the anxiety triggers (such as you getting ready, grabbing your keys, etc) over time, and can help to change their reaction from a fearful one to a more pleasant response. You might try going through your routine to get ready to leave- go outside, and then come right back in. The next time, leave and make a trip around the block, and then return. The goal is to make each trip just a little longer than the last. Unpredictable for your dog- but you always return. Also, make a note to always be CALM. Short, calm goodbyes. If you’re nervous, sad or anxious about leaving your pet, you will just feed the cycle of your pet getting all worked up. You want to make the impression that it’s noting out of the ordinary- pat him on the head, “Bye bud, I’ll be back” and out the door.

            If this isn’t quite working for you, we recommend meeting with Dr. Yancey or Dr. Schieber to discuss your options. A professional trainer or dog behaviorist may be your next step. There are medications available that may also help. Keep in mind that there is no “miracle drug” – these medications are always used with behavior modification. Meaning, you will have to put in the work to desensitize your dog in conjunction with medication, in order for them to retain their behavior once they are weaned off the drug.

            A dog is a life long commitment. For the most part, the work you put in will be the result you get. If you’ve tried your options, and still find yourself struggling, please contact us. Having a dog is one of life’s many joys, and shouldn’t be stressful. We’re here to help and strengthen the family and pet bond! You can reach us at 740-386-6633, and Dr. Yancey or Dr. Schieber will be happy to meet your special pet and review your options.

 

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