Dog Separation Anxiety: Maggie is a two year old Shih-Tzu that is really clingy to her owner. Her favorite hobby seems to be staying seated by her owner’s lap demanding constantly attention. Fail to pet her once and she may seem to get upset with her owner. She will also follow her owner around the house as a shadow. Her owner though is not really much aware of what goes on when she leaves for work each day. Yet, her neighbors know too very well.
Maggie will start barking non stop until her owner’s return. She is however in good company as more and more dogs seem to suffer from separation anxiety. In the most severe forms dogs will literally rip the house apart in manifestation of their stress and frustration of being left alone. Others may start exhibiting inappropriate urination and defecation on carpet, rugs and furniture. In some cases the dog will start self inflicting wounds, by constantly licking or chewing paws or even start exhibiting obsessive disorders such as constant tail chasing. Whatever the dog does, it is basically trying to manifest its unhappiness and upset of being left by itself alone.
Either being mild or severe, separation anxiety needs addressed because it tends to escalate and become troublesome. Too many pets have been abandoned or surrendered to shelters because the problem got too out of hand. Luckily, if caught early enough, medications or psychological approaches may help ease the suffering.
In mild cases, you can try some of the following guidelines and psychological approaches:
7 Golden Rules to help dogs with Separation Anxiety
- Rule number 1
Try not to make a big deal when saying goodbye. If you are getting ready and then when it is time for you to leave you start making a big fuss by hugging your dog, petting her and making it look like you will not see each other for an entire week, your dog will perceive your leaving as you are portraying it -a big of a deal-.
- Rule number 2
On a day where you are planning to stay home repeatedly pretend you are about to leave. Grab the keys and put on your coat and then just stay at home. Do this frequently throughout the day until the dog seems more relaxed and used to the idea.
- Rule number 3
Practice longer and longer absences. Try leaving and coming back after 5 minutes, then 10 then 20 then 30. Preferably have a neighbor inform you if he is constantly barking during your absence or accepting it better. If no neighbor is available try to record him during your absence.
- Rule number 4
Teach your dog that you decide when it is petting time. If your pet requests all the time to be pet and you allow her to, she will grow too clingy and think she can set all the rules. Ignore her when she requests to be pet, rather decide to pet her when she is behaving nicely, order her to sit and then lavish her with caresses.
- Rule number 5
Invest in some toys that can keep her occupied during your absence. Kong toys are great. They have a hollow spot where you can put a treat inside and the dog works on trying to get the treat out. This can keep occupied for hours if you fill them up strategically.
- Rule number 6
In some cases a pheromone plug in may help your pet relax in your absence. Some pets may respond well to it and become less stressed. However, this work best if other guidelines mentioned are followed.
- Rule number 7
In more severe cases, ask your vet about mediacations that may calm him down. Clomicalm is a medication that has been helpful.Also ask for a dog behaviorist, they may be able to come to your home and evaluate the situation.
Hopefully, you dog will slowly start getting more used to being home alone. Some may still need a TV or radio on to feel some human companionship while alone. Others may need toys and clothes that smell like their owner. In most severe cases a dog sitter will be needed to keep the dog positively focused on something other than your absence. Whichever approach works best, your dog should be able to cope better while you are out within a few weeks. If still no improvement is observed a behaviorist may need to be contacted or medications may need to be prescribed. The key is catching this early enough so it is more manageable.
At the end do not expect your dog will be jumping for joy upon your leaving but she sure will upon your return.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.