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Separation Anxiety

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Separation anxiety for a pet is similar to a panic attack in humans.  Basically, the pet panics when you are away, which is displayed through destructive or anxious behaviors.  Some common signs/behaviors of separation anxiety are:

 

  • Chewing
  • Barking or whining
  • House destruction
  • Inappropriate elimination/accidents in a house trained pet

 

Separation anxiety is fairly common and often occurs after a traumatic or stressful situation for the dog.  For example, shelter/rescue dogs or a dog that has previously been abandoned will sometimes display separation anxiety in the new home. The good news is that this is rarely permanent, and can be worked through with some patience and training.

 

How do I know if my dog has Separation Anxiety?

 

Dogs are social creatures, pack animals by nature.  They do not like to be separated from their ‘pack’ (you!) for long periods of time.  Dogs who have been re-homed or abandoned can be more susceptible to anxiety until they adjust to new routines.

 

If your dog displays two or more of the following, s/he may have separation anxiety :

 

  • ‘Clingy’ behavior while you are home: following you, always needing to touch you, see you.
  • Barking, whining, pacing when without you.
  • Pacing, panting, drooling, whining, hiding as you get ready to leave home.
  • Aversion, nervous drooling, and/or escape attempts when being put in the crate/kennel.
  • Refusal to eat or drink while you are gone.
  • “Barrier Frustration” chewing (i.e. chewing door frames, window frames, walls, kennel) while you are gone.
  • Home destruction, chewing only while you are gone.
  • Urination or defecation in the house only while you are gone.
  • Self-injurious behavior attempting to escape the home, yard or crate/kennel.  
  • Frantic greetings when you get home.

 

What to do about Separation Anxiety?

 

Here are some do’s and don’ts for a pet with separation anxiety:

 

DO

  • Practice calm, non-demonstrative departures and arrivals.  Ignore the frantic greetings and anxious behaviors.  When the dog is calm, give lots of praise and attention at that point.
  • Leave an item of clothing or one of your blankets for the pet while you are away.  This item will carry your scent, which can help calm your pet.
  • Leave a TV or radio playing.  The background noise and human voices may soothe an anxious pet.
  • Practice obedience training, particularly stay commands: sit-stay, down-stay
  • Leave some food or treats in a Kong toy or other food stuffed toy.  Working to get the food out while you are gone helps keep your pet busy and has the added bonus of associating positive things with your absence.
  • If the dog exhibits a strong dislike for the crate/kennel, put him/her instead in a safe room (puppy-proofed) until the kennel anxiety has been resolved.
  • Hire a pet sitter to come visit, walk him/her and play during the day while you are away at work.

 

 

DON’T

 

  • Never punish your pet when you get home for destruction, house-soiling or other anxiety driven behavior.  This will increase the animal’s anxiety level.
  • Do not inadvertently reward a destructive or nervous behavior.  For example, coming back in the home because the dog is barking and whining rewards by giving the dog the impression these things may work (you came back = reward), so that will reinforce the problem behavior.
  • Do not force a dog into a kennel/crate.  Some tips for making the kennel/crate a more positive place are: put treats and meals in the kennel, and never use a kennel as a punishment.
  • Try not to reinforce "clingy" behavior. Reward your dog for coming when you call, but also reward your dog for being more independent.   

 

An animal with separation anxiety is acting out of panic and fear. Your pet is not being destructive on purpose or out of revenge, or because they are mad at you for leaving them.

 

Time, patience and proper responses can help a pet with separation anxiety learn to be on his/her own better.  You can also consult an animal behaviorist and your vet for more suggestions.

 

 





Fairy Dogparents
 Plymouth, Minnesota
952-484-2745