Separation Anxiety Dogs
How To Gently Prepare Your Puppy or Dog to Accept Being Left Alone
The fear of being left alone is very strong in some dogs. You need to prepare them for those absences. Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is diagnosed in around 15% of behavioural cases. When left alone, most dogs find a familiar spot and go to sleep. However, a dog when suffering from separation anxiety can become extremely anxious.
Not understanding where you or your family have gone or if you will ever return. Dog’s can exhibit behaviour which may include chewing, barking, salivating, urinating, defecating, vomiting or escape behaviour.
Common problems are chewing through walls, scratching through doors, breaking out of crates or cages or trying to dig their way out of a house. In some cases, the dog can become ill, stop eating, or suffer from depression or even hurt itself in its frenzy to escape. Hence the reason for a quality crate.
Factors at the core of this problem include genetics, early learning, lack of socialisation and owner behaviour. Your dog is a social, pack animal that relies on the others for individual protection by safety in numbers.
Dogs that lack confidence, due to over bonding, under socialisation, lack of communication and training or no knowledge of what is expected of them, mistreatment in the past, long confinement or even dogs that have been abandoned or rehomed are more likely to exhibit behaviour’s relating to separation anxiety.
Solution and Treatment
No long goodbyes. When it is time to leave, just leave. Do not say a big and drawn out “Goodbye” to your dog. In fact, ignore your dog for five minutes before you go. Paying too much attention will make your dog feel more insecure when that attention is abruptly withdrawn. At the bottom of this article is some medical treatment that can help which includes both herbal and mainstream drugs
Distractions for a dog comes in many formsDistractions Are The Key
You can help your puppy or adult dog accept the separation more easily by carefully introducing him to the area you want it to sleep. Then carefully feed favourite treats in this area.
I use Bulls Pizzle End Pieces, or Beef Scalp or better still a prepared”Bye-Bye” Calves Hoof . This is a hollow hoof that you can fill with all kinds of goodies.
I stuff the Hooves with whole air dried Sprats and seal them in with Beef Jerky then freeze them. This makes an irresistible long lasting goodbye treat to help them overcome Separation Anxiety.
It is also very good for puppies who are getting distressed at night. By freezing the Goodbye Hooves it makes them last longer and cools down the gums as they continue teething up until around 1 year old.
Put these treats away and only take it out when you leave each day. Place the Bulls Pizzle or goodbye hoof either empty prepared near your dog, just before you close the door of the crate. When you arrive home exchange for a tasty treat and put the hoof away.
The Hoof or Pizzle only comes out when you leave. When it gets low then poke out the contents and refill. You are distracting your dog with something that he will find interesting enough to concentrate on and will ignore you leaving, he should appreciate the hoof so much that he will look forward to it coming out, instead of getting upset with your leaving
Crate Training your puppy or adult dog is importantCrate Train
Confining your dog during your times of absence has two positive results. Firstly, a dog who is confined crate cannot do damage to your home. Secondly, a crate, when properly introduced, will act as a safe and comfortable den where the dog can relax. Limiting his movement also acts as an anxiety reducer for most dogs.
I believe that this is the only one type of crate I would use. it is made by MTM in the UK and is dog proof. All the crates you normally buy are made outside the UK. Many as so flimsy that they dangerous to a dog especially so if they are trying to break out. These MTM Crates are the only ones I will sell. You can see them in my store. you can also read how to. Introduce your Dog To a Crate.
Exercise Your Dog
A dog that is lacking exercise is more likely to have stress and tension. Take out your dog on long walks, run,s or with play. This goes a long way in reducing stress. You need of course to be able to recall your dog when off lead.
Certain food can also cause dogs stress and anxiety because of the additives so feed your dog a good quality food. See my article on Dog Behaviour and Food. I feed my own dogs on Fish4Dogs.
Routine is the key to overcoming Separation AnxietyLeave the Radio On
Tune a radio to a talk station; not music unless it is classical which most dogs find soothing. Put it on in a room you are often in, but not in the same room as the dog, and close the door.
The dog will hear the human voices from your room and may not feel so alone. Some clients tape record their own voices and play the recording rather than the radio programme.
Dogs know the sound of your voice. And remember, since the dog is most anxious just after you leave, therefore it need only be an hour long.
Build up a routine
The hardest time for dogs is immediately after you leave. Their anxious, frantic, and occasionally destructive behaviour generally happens inside the first hour. You need to modify your dog’s behaviour through reinforcement training and behaviour modification.
Put your dog in his crate if you have crate trained, get ready to leave like normal then just leave. Come back after 2 minutes. Greet your dog calmly. If he is not showing anxiety reinforce this behaviour with a food treat he enjoys.
Wait a few minutes and then repeat the exercise, this time remaining outside a few minutes longer. Continue practising leaving and returning over the next couple of weeks, when you return, greet your dog after he has settled down before offering a cuddle or a treat.
When you reach 30 minutes the length of time the dog is left can be increased by larger increments. Once the dog can be left alone for 1.5 hours, it can usually be left all day. Though I stress at this time the crate should be left open. No dog should be locked in a crate all day and no dog should be left alone all day every day
Controlling Resources is Vital
When a dog has a strong consistent leader/controller of resources, it has a calming effect on him. He feels safe and taken care of. In the absence of a strong controller, your dog feels obligated to assume that position in the social hierarchy of the family pack.
Since a leader must control all that goes on, his inability to control you leaving causes him stress and anxiety. They sometimes exhibit dominant behaviour to try to stop owners from leaving.
Medical TreatmentSkullcap And Valarian
Sometimes anti-anxiety medication can be of help whilst you take the dog through a behavioural desensitisation programme..
You can use it in conjunction with Skullcap and Valerian. A traditional herbal remedy for the symptomatic relief of anxiety, nervousness, excitability and travel sickness. You can get both the treatments already mentioned on line.
Consistency Is The Key.
You are responsible for providing food and shelter. You also have the responsibility of supplying an environment whereby the dog feels safe and secure. Leadership/Resource controlling plays a major part. Lack of consistency and over-bonding can be a cause and effect of separation anxiety. I often say to my clients that three most important tenets in dog behaviour and training are Consistency, Consistency and Consistency. Though it must be said other factors may also play their part.
Sometimes you may need to get another dog for company and comfort for your pet, especially if the symptoms are very severe. Sometimes you may have to re-home the dog if your lifestyle and work commitments do not allow for a happy and contented pet.