Since we’ve started to talk about behavior problem in the last post, I’d like to continue the topic and talk about separation anxiety. This is a major behavioral problem which touches many dog owners.
- What is separation anxiety? What causes it? Separation anxiety is when dogs become triggered by being left alone. They are often afraid of being left by their pet parents or people they are attached to. Some pets may also show signs of anxiety when their owners are preparing to walk out the door. Many dogs start barking seconds after being left alone and often show distress behavior within a short period of time. These behaviors can often lead to self-harm and household destruction.
- Common symptoms
– Urinating and Defecating
– Barking and Loud Howling
– Chewing, Digging and Destruction
– Coprophagia – some dogs defecate and then consume their excrement
- Treating separation anxiety
First of all, be sure to visit your vet and make sure that your dog is healthy. Once you’ve done a check up, you can try to begin treating your pet’s anxiety problems. I would recommend meeting with a specialist but you can it’s not necessary.
“If your dog has a mild case of separation anxiety, counterconditioning might reduce or resolve the problem. Counterconditioning is a treatment process that changes an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. It’s done by associating the sight or presence of a feared or disliked person, animal, place, object or situation with something really good, something the dog loves. Over time, the dog learns that whatever he fears actually predicts good things for him. For dogs with separation anxiety, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food. To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house, you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish.” – ASPCA
If your dog has a severe case of separation anxiety, it requires a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program. I would recommend trying the counterconditioning program with the help of a specialist. We often do not understand all the signals that our pet is sending and may need someone, who can help us meet their needs. I would also try the “Crate Method” which requires you to teach your dog that the crate is it’s “safe place”. Crate training does not suit all dogs. You should definitely monitor your pup while being at home and be sure that it doesn’t show any signs of stress while being in the crate. Exercise and aerobics are also great for helping your pet relax. Be sure to take him for an intense walk, run or swim before leaving him alone. Your dog will come back tired and probably want to rest for a while. Play some relaxing music for pets and allow your beloved friend to relax and calm down after a physical effort. You can also read through the ASPCA article linked above for more tips given to you by professionals.