Separation Anxiety and Your Dog

For many dog owners, separation anxiety exhibited by their canine friends can often pose a serious problem. Whether furniture has been chewed, the yard has been torn up, or neighbors have been kept up from continuous barking or howling, the problem affects more than just the dog, and can result in an owner having to take some rather drastic and unfortunate measures.

In response to such concerns, moderator Auntie-Kath provides some great pet friendly techniques to wean your puppy from such behavior:

"For a minor separation anxiety problem, the following techniques may be helpful by themselves. For more severe problems, these techniques should be used along with the desensitization process described in the next section.

- Keep arrivals and departures low-key. For example, when you arrive home, ignore your dog for the first few minutes, then calmly pet him.

- Leave your dog with an article of clothing that smells like you, an old tee shirt that youve slept in recently, for example.

- Establish a "safety cue"--a word or action that you use every time you leave that tells your dog youҒll be back. Dogs usually learn to associate certain cues with short absences by their owners. For example, when you take out the garbage, your dog knows you come right back and doesn't become anxious. Therefore, its helpful to associate a safety cue with your practice departures and short-duration absences.

Some examples of safety cues are: a playing radio; a playing television; a bone; or a toy (one that doesnҒt have dangerous fillings and cant be torn into pieces). Use your safety cue during practice sessions, but donҒt present your dog with the safety cue when you leave for a period of time longer than he can tolerate or the value of the safety cue will be lost. Leaving a radio on to provide company for your dog isnt particularly useful by itself, but a playing radio may work if youҒve used it consistently as a safety cue in your practice sessions. If your dog engages in destructive chewing as part of his separation distress, offering him a chewing item as a safety cue is a good idea. Very hard rubber toys that can be stuffed with treats and Nylabone-like products are good choices.

Desensitization Techniques For More Severe Cases Of Separation Anxiety

The primary treatment for more severe cases of separation anxiety is a systematic process of getting your dog used to being alone. You must teach your dog to remain calm during "practice" departures and short absences.

We recommend the following procedure:

- Begin by engaging in your normal departure activities (getting your keys, putting on your coat), then sit back down. Repeat this step until your dog shows no distress in response to your activities.

- Next, engage in your normal departure activities and go to the door and open it, then sit back down.

- Next, step outside the door, leaving the door open, then return.

- Finally, step outside, close the door, then immediately return. Slowly get your dog accustomed to being alone with the door closed between you for several seconds.

- Proceed very gradually from step to step, repeating each step until your dog shows no signs of distress (the number of repetitions will vary depending on the severity of the problem). If at any time in this process your actions produce an anxiety response in your dog, youve proceeded too fast. Return to an earlier step in the process and practice this step until the dog shows no distress response, then proceed to the next step.

- When your dog is tolerating your being on the other side of the door for several seconds, begin short-duration absences. This step involves giving the dog a verbal cue (for example, "IҒll be back.'), leaving and then returning within a minute. Your return must be low-key: either ignore your dog or greet him quietly and calmly. If he shows no signs of distress, repeat the exercise. If he appears anxious, wait until he relaxes to repeat the exercise. Gradually increase the length of time youre gone.

- Practice as many absences as possible that last less than ten minutes. You can do many departures within one session if your dog relaxes sufficiently between departures. You should also scatter practice departures and short-duration absences throughout the day.

- Once your dog can handle short absences (30 to 90 minutes), heҒll usually be able to handle longer intervals alone and you wont have to work up to all-day absences minute by minute. The hard part is at the beginning, but the job gets easier as you go along. Nevertheless, you must go slowly at first. How long it takes to condition your dog to being alone depends on the severity of his problem.Ҕ


PetRelocation Team




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