Owning a dog who shows signs of Separation Anxiety can be a worrying time for many dog owners. Separation Anxiety is described as a dog that gets overly stressed when left alone by its owners. It can manifest itself in destructive behaviours, for instance: –
- Recreational chewing, digging or tearing.
- Excessive barking.
- Hyperactivity, like constant pacing or stereotypical behaviour such as running up and down the stairs repeatedly.
- Psychosomatic problems like diarrhea or vomiting.
Or it can manifest itself in a more personal basis to the dog, for instance: –
- Anorexia – refusing to eat before or after the owner has left.
- Self-mutilation, like paw chewing or excessive licking.
- Aggression when the owner leaves which may include growling, blocking exit or nipping at the owner’s ankles.
There are many ways of treating separation anxiety, which involve environmental changes and systematic desensitisation. Systematic desensitisation means the dog is first kept calm and then introduced to the fear-evoking stimulus (being left alone) at whatever level the dog can tolerate without showing anxiety. Then the stimulus is gradually intensified at whatever rate the dog can handle whilst staying calm.
Environmental changes will be beneficial in the training programme too. These may include introducing a crate, if the dog does not already use one, can be useful and every effort should be made to make the dog comfortable and confident in their crate so that this becomes the dog’s safe haven when they are left alone. Giving them something to chew on like a bone or stuffed Kong and looking at the dog’s exercise requirements.
Lastly, seeking the advice of your vet for anti-anxiety drugs like Prozac can also be an option for many dog owners to help during the early stages of training.
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Isabelle Adams-Papé IMDT
121 Dog Training – Hong Kong (no longer operational)
Ringwood Dogs, Ashley Heath on the Hampshire and Dorset border, UK
Dog Training, Dog Walking, Dog Day Care, Home Dog Boarding