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Canine Separation Anxiety
08/13/15 at 12:48 PM | Published Under Dog Behavior
Canine Separation Anxiety
Your dog follows you from room to room. He displays frantic greeting behaviors and acts depressed when you leave. He’s destructive when you’re gone. While experts don’t fully understand why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others don't, it’s vital that we recognize how the behavior associated with this condition is part of a panic response.
Signs of Canine Separation Anxiety include excessive barking or whining, aggression, scratching or digging at furniture/doors/windows, increased defecation/urination, frantic pacing and visual scanning, inappropriate chewing, wet footprints from sweaty paws, excessive drooling and an exaggerated greeting routine.
Often a dog’s history may make him more susceptible to developing canine separation anxiety, including:
- Cognitive dysfunction (geriatric disorder)
- Early or late placement from mother and littermates
- Social isolation within the first four months of life
- Being left alone at a young age
- Punitive rearing practices
- Significant change in schedule or routine
- Sudden decrease in time spent with owner
- Relocating with owner to a new home
- Being re-homed or adopted from a shelter
- Frequent kenneling for long periods of time
- Traumatic event experienced when alone
- Any type of emotionally traumatic experience
- Long term or permanent absence of a family member
- Addition of a new family member
The best way to treat minor separation anxiety is to keep your departures and arrivals low key. When you leave your home, give your dog an old t-shirt or another recently worn clothing article that holds your scent. Also create a safety cue – a word or action that you use each time you leave so your canine knows you'll return. When he sees you take out the trash, for example, a safety cue will reassure your dog that you’ll come right back in.
When you return home after being away for longer durations, ignore your four-legged friend for the first few minutes before calmly petting him. There are also some over-the-counter herbal calming products that may also help reduce separation anxiety in dogs.
When the problem is more severe, combine the above teaching techniques with desensitization training. Use positive reinforcement by showing your dog the “sit-stay” and “down-stay” commands. This training will help your canine learn that he can remain calm and happy in one place while you head into another room.
You can also create a “safe place” to limit your dog’s ability to be destructive. Consider a room with a window that confines loosely rather than strictly. Add dog toys that distract and dirty laundry that lends to calming or safety cues.
It can take time for your canine to unlearn panic responses from separation anxiety. But you may be surprised by the way a few repetitive behavioral modification techniques can significantly improve your pet’s mental well-being.