Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed and mistreated behavior issues. Many veterinarians, pet store workers, and even trainers misdiagnose dogs and provide owners with bad advice that will be counterproductive to True separation anxiety. Separation anxiety or any other anxiety is never fixed overnight.
Is it truly anxiety?
1. Is your dog anxious and other areas? Does your dog easily become stressed in a new environment? It is pretty rare for a dog to only be anxious in one area such as during separation. Most of the time dogs that have true anxiety will display anxiety and other situations as well
2. Is your dog chewing and digging at the doors and windows? Or is your dog chewing up everything? Most dogs with separation anxiety will fixate at points of exit such as the front door or window.
3. Does your dog start to get anxious when you’re getting ready for work in the morning? A dog that is simply chewing or getting into trouble while you’re away due to boredom will not become worried when you start preparing for work however a dog with anxiety will.
I like to break down treatment of separation anxiety into three separate categories. Management, training (behavior modification), and medical.
Here are some MANAGEMENT (not treatment) rules for separation anxiety.
1. Leave a radio or T.V. on.
2. Give a high value bone as you are walking out the door. As soon as you come home pick up the bone. You want him to think “oh man, mom’s home.” These bones also act as a pacifier. Pick up raw natural meat bones at specialty pet stores such as chuck and dawn, heroes pets, or wag and wash. Be sure to switch them out daily, so your dog doesnt get bored.
3. Never get excited when you come home. Stay calm for the first ten minutes and ignore the dog.
4. Your dog needs to be exercised hard enough that they are out of breath. Not a little out of breath, exhausted. This will release the same feel good chemicals in the brain as it does in humans.
5. Practice Calm behaviors before leaving the house such as relax on a mat.
6. Record yourself reading a chapter or two out of a book. Play it looped when you leave the house and another room.
7. Dog walker, dog daycare or dog sitter. Some dogs me still experience anxiety when their owners are out of site, but a stranger is present. Most dogs have a much easier time to adjusting if they are being checked on through the day or even better staying with somebody through the day.
Separation anxiety is never treated through just one method. It frequently takes layering treatments such as medication and behavior modification for separation anxiety to be treated.
I strongly recommend that you get with a veterinarian who has additional education in Behavior. We call these Veterinary behaviorists. They can address all three elements needed to truly treat separation anxiety.
For more information on separation anxiety please visit the videos.