Separation Anxiety

Out Of Sight, But Not Out Of Mind
By Brenda Barnette, General Manager

One of the concerns people most often mention about their pets-especially dogs-is something the experts call “separation anxiety.” That’s a big term that means your dog found creative ways to let you know she didn’t like the fact that you left her. She could chew up something that is not her toy or she might bark until the neighbors call the police. In extreme cases, she may soil your bed or favorite chair. None of these behaviorsImage of dog typically inspires we humans to be patient, loving and gentle. However, your furry family member is frightened and totally distressed if she is having these behaviors. She would never disappoint you on purpose.If you are  fortunate to be able to have your dog with you most of the time,  separation anxiety dogs are totally devoted companions.

For more  severe cases, you may consult an animal behaviorist. An excellent  resource is the Program for Companion Animal Behavior at UC Davis  College of Veterinary Medicine .

Avoid any trainer who recommends rough handling or aversive treatment.  Trust your expert, and give it time! Your dog will repay you with a  lifetime of unconditional love and acceptance

Remedies
For simple cases of separation anxiety, you may try these remedies:

  • Take your dog out for a long walk, a run or a playful romp in the morning and evening. This will leave her feeling more content and relaxed.
  • Your animal knows the departure clues when you put on your shoes, turn off the TV, and grab your keys and briefcase on your way out. Try putting your keys in your pocket an hour before you leave. Put on your shoes and pick up your bag – and walk back to your favorite chair and sit down.
  • Un-condition your dog to know you are leaving by changing your predictable patterns. When it’s time to leave, just leave quietly.
  • No hugs and kisses, or regretful “Good Byes.” These clues might make your pet feel more anxious. Ignore your animal for about 15 minutes before you leave. And then just leave.
  • Prepare a special treat to stuff into a rubber snack toy you can buy at a pet store. Fill it with cheese, peanut butter, beef jerky or anything she really likes. Give her the special “Good Bye” stuffed toy when you leave and then be sure to pick up and put the treats away when you get home. Food-motivated animals will focus on the special treat items and not on your departure. You can even freeze rubber snack toys to make them last longer.
  • Create a safe, secure room or space for your dog while you are away. Include their bedding and favorite toys, and provide some normal household sounds by playing a radio or tape of voices and music. Use this room to practice departures and quick returns, with rewards for appropriate behavior, to help condition them to stay calm. DO NOT begin crate training while a dog is still insecure. The benefits of crate training will be discussed in a future column.
  • Sometimes a second furry family member can provide both pets with the security and companionship of a good buddy during the day. Be sure to involve your current pet in the selection process for a good match.

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