I am often asked about problems with separation anxiety, and it seems to be a problem that more owners are noticing in thier dog lately. I think, now that this problem has a name, we are quick to jump on the idea that our dog may suffer from it. So- what exactly IS separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is when a dog has a negative reaction to being left alone. These reactions may range from light stress (drooling, urinating) to full-blown destructive behaviors (chewing through walls and doors). This typically will manifest shortly after being left; dogs that exhibit negative behaviors when left for longer periods are often demonstrating boredom, or attention-seeking behavior.
Finding a solution to this problem lies in knowing the cause. It has been my experience that dogs with separation anxiety are anxious overall, at any given time, not only when left alone. What can you do when you are available to reduce your dog’s anxiety levels? Exercise is always #1 with most behavioral problems. Social and enrichment activities can also produce positive benefits for anxious dogs. These may include activities such as walks in new locations, visiting the dog park, interactive games, and even the use of food toys. Anything that is mentally and physically stimulating can reduce stress and anxiety! Further, supplements added to the diet such as flower essences and turkey can also produce a calming effect. Flower essences can also be purchased as plug-in scented oils, as well as infused collars for additional benefit- lavender and chamomile are recommended.
Now, what to do when you leave. . .IGNORE YOUR DOG!!! Do not give any goodbyes when you leave, or hellos when you arrive, for that matter. Follow the “don’t look, don’t touch, don’t talk” rule. For severe cases, changing your routine when you leave can help- if you grab your keys and then your coat, and then your wallet, change the order. If not already doing so, crating your dog can help protect your home as well as the safety of your pet. Crates are often a place of sanctuary for dogs, although in some dogs, crates also induce stress. A decision may have to be made in regard to the severity of the problem and the safety of your dog when you are not home. For dogs that are known escape artists, there are additional solutions as well.
Overall, your goal is to reduce the amount of anxiety your dog experiences on a regular basis. It is my personal opinion to stay away from behavior modifying drugs in these cases, as they can have severe adverse effects. For specific questions regarding your dog, please contact Aja, at: email@example.com