Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

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Separation anxiety can result from suffering a traumatic experience, such as a major earthquake or becoming lost in unfamiliar surroundings.
Leave Kongs stuffed with peanut butter or cottage cheese ready for him to dig into as soon as you leave. Unfortunately, sometimes separation anxiety just isn’t preventable, especially with an older dog. More than half of my clients bring dogs into their lives from shelters or other situations in which the dog’s history is unclear.  And a fairly large percentage of those have some sort of behavioral issue, such as fear-based aggression, barrier frustration (on leash or behind doors or gates) or, the subject of today’s post, separation anxiety. However, just because after you leave for work your dog tears up furniture, soils the carpet, or barks all day, it does not automatically mean he’s suffering from separation anxiety; he could just be bored out of his mind or under-exercised.
Other components of the program might include increasing exercise levels, expansion of obedience training, pressure wraps (such as the Thundershirt), and in some cases, medication.
Having owned well-trained dogs all my life, I started Better Nature Dog Training to exploit decades of experience teaching across a number of fields. I teach people how to effectively train their dogs by clearly demonstrating that every interaction counts when training a dog to come when called, for example, or instructing a puppy how to best get along in life. Training a puppy or dog can be a most rewarding life experience; it can also be stressful and perplexing. This entry was posted in Dog Training and tagged dog behavior, dog separation anxiety, dog training, separation anxiety. Seperation anxiety may be preventable with proper socialization and training when a puppyPuppies should be well socialized with other animals and people. If you come home to find your dog chewing on your old house slippers, in all probability he simply finds the activity enjoyable and uses your absence as a chance to gnaw away, uninterrupted. For example, your dog knows that when you put on your jacket, you’re about to leave the house. When he can do that without exhibiting any signs of distress, add picking up your briefcase. The key is teaching him that leaving him alone actually means good things — the goal is for him to associate your departure with something positive. See that he receives plenty of physical and mental exercise and that he gets lots of time with you.
Dogs who’ve been properly introduced to their crate tend to feel safe and secure in this private den. Left untreated, it causes damage to your house and belongings — and serious psychological suffering for your dog. I am nationally-certified through the highly-respected Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and am a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. The scientific aspect comes from understanding dog psychology from an evolutionary perspective, knowing how dogs are both similar to and distinct from their ancestors, including the grey wolf.
One of the best services I provide is taking the guesswork out while lending a sure, guiding hand in successful dog behavior development and modification.
With over 600 hospitals and 1,800 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, we strive to give your pet the very best in medical care. The results — including the destruction of your belongings and the deterioration of your dog’s mental and physical health — can be devastating. This signals to your dog that coming and going are casual, common occurrences — no need for drama or spectacular displays of emotion. In some cases, dogs prefer the sanctuary of a crate to being left alone in a big open house. The holistic component derives from taking into account all facets of any particular dog’s situation, including upbringing, prior training, traumatic events and—most importantly—the characteristics of his home and family life.
When you bring your puppy out of alone time, to socialize with the family, make sure that you only get him when he is quietly playing with his toys. I, too, have worked with dogs a lot, not in fostering, but I have been a groomer and worked for 2 vets.
In fact, a diagnosis of separation anxiety in no way precludes a healthy and happy existence for your dog.
We own two adult dogs who can have some separation anxiety problems when we are away from home on vacations and such.


You’ll continue adding actions, in baby steps, until you can leave the house for a period of an hour or more without consequence.
A well adjusted puppy should do well either alone or with the family and will be less likely to have seperation anxiety in the future.
Destructive activity is often focused on owner possessions, or at the doors where owners depart or the dog is confined, and most often occurs shortly after departure. If the dog destroys, vocalizes or eliminates both while the owners are at home and when they are away, other causes should first be considered. Dogs that eliminate when owners are at home may not be completely housetrained or may have a medical problem. His loving owner doted on him until the husband broke his hip, was taken away by medics in an ambulance and had to move into a nursing home that would not take large dogs.
Some dogs will attempt to escape or become extremely anxious when confined, so that destructiveness or house-soiling when a dog is locked up in a crate, basement, or laundry room, may be due to confinement or barrier anxiety and associated attempts at escape. In other situations fear or anxiety due to an external event (construction, storms, fireworks) may trigger destructive behaviors.
Old dogs with medical problems such as loss of hearing or sight, painful conditions and cognitive dysfunction may become more anxious in general, and seek out the owner's attention for security and relief. Perhaps the best way to determine if the behaviors are due to the anxiety associated with the owner's departure is to make an audiotape or movie clip of the behavior when the dog is alone. Because he was so worked up, we did put him in doggy day care while we were at work for a few weeks while we started on the steps.
He plays with toys all the time now too, which he didn't do for months when we first adopted him.
Establish a daily routine so that your dog can begin to predict when it can expect attention (including exercise, feeding, training, play and elimination) and when it should be prepared for inattention (when it should be napping or playing its favored toys. With separation anxiety you must reinforce the pet for settling down, relaxing and showing some independence, while attention seeking and following behaviors should never be reinforced. Therefore, training should focus on extended and relaxed down stays and going to a bed or mat on command (see our 'Training Dogs - Settle and Relaxation Training' handout).
If your dog seeks attention, you should either ignore your dog entirely until it settles, or have your dog do a down-stay or go to its mat. You want your dog to learn that calm and quiet behavior is the only way to receive attention. Not only should attention-seeking behavior be ignored, but all casual interactions should be avoided for the first few weeks, so that it is clear to both you and your dog that a settled response achieves rewards and attention seeking does not. Practice down stays and mat exercises using food lures, clicker training or head halter training, whichever is most effective. You can begin by training your pet to go to the area and gradually shape longer stays and more relaxed responses in the area before rewards are given. It might be helpful to have a barricade, tie down or crate that could be closed to ensure that your dog remains in the area for long enough at each session before being released. On the other hand, know your pets' limits; your dog must be calm and settled when released so as to avoid reinforcing crying or barking behavior.
At first your dog can be taken to this area as part of its training routine using a toy or treat as a lure or a leash and head halter. In time, a daily routine should be established where the dog learns to lie on its mat after each exercise, play and training session to either nap or play with its own toys. This is similar to the routine for crate training, where the mat or bed becomes the dog's bed or playpen. Other than play, exercise and training sessions, focus on giving your dog some or all of its rewards (treats, toys, chews, affection, feeding toys) only in this area. Audible cues such as a radio, CD or TV, odors such as aromatherapy candles or a piece of clothing with the owner's scent, and a comfortable bed can help to promote a relaxed response since they are associated with relaxation and owner presence (non-departure). I talked to the trainer and she suggested to spray ammonia on the stuff we she tries to chew up. This can be as simple as having the dog respond to a command such as "sit" prior to receiving anything it wants. For example if the dog asks to go outside, prior to opening the door the dog is given the command to "sit" and once it complies, the door is opened.


See our handout on 'Training Dogs – Learn to Earn and Predictable Rewards' for other examples.
In addition, the pet must learn to accept progressively longer periods of inattention and separation while the owners are at home. Your dog should soon learn that the faster it settles, the sooner it will get your attention. On the other hand, some dogs learn that other signals indicate that you are not planning to depart (inhibiting cues) and therefore can help the dog to relax.
If you can prevent your dog from observing any of these anxiety inducing pre-departure cues, or if you can train your dog that these cues are no longer predictive of departure, then the anxiety is greatly reduced.
Even with the best of efforts some dogs will still pick up on "cues" that the owner is about to depart and react. Train your pet to associate these cues with enjoyable, relaxing situations (rather than the anxiety of impending departure). By exposing the dog to these cues while you remain at home and when the dog is relaxed or otherwise occupied, they should no longer predict departure. The dog will be watching and possibly get up, but once you put every thing away, the dog should lie down. Only 3-4 repetitions should be done in a day and the dog must be calm and quiet before presenting the cues again. Eventually, the dog will not attend to these cues (habituate) because they are no longer predictive of you leaving and will not react, get up or look anxious as you go about your pre-departure tasks. He is an extremely well-behaved dog, always has been, but he seems to suffer from separation anxiety when my husband or I leave.
I am currently expecting my first child, so the dog is rarely left alone (and when he is it's for 4 hours or less), but with a lot of upcoming doctor appointments, I am worried the problem will continue. I can't stand the thought of losing him, but with a baby on the way, I cannot afford to lose my home either. You may need to begin with food lure exercises, starting with a down-stay and gradually increasing the time and the level of relaxation at each session. Once the pet will stay in your presence, begin to walk away and return beginning with just a few feet for a few seconds and progressing over time to leaving the room for 30 minutes or longer.
Reward with a quiet play or attention session, perhaps coming back and giving a gentle massage or tummy rub. In this way the desired behavior is being shaped and reinforced with the very attention that the dog craves. Remember however, that attention at other times, especially on demand, encourages the dog to follow and pester rather than stay in its bed and relax. A head halter can be particularly useful throughout this training to insure that the pet remains in position and immediately responds to the command.
From this point on, your dog should be encouraged to stay in its bed or crate for extended periods of time rather than sitting at your feet or on your lap. If your dog can also be taught to sleep in this relaxation area at night rather than on your bed or in your bedroom, this may help to break the over-attachment and dependence more quickly. This may be because the dog has learned to relax and enjoy the car rides, without receiving constant physical attention and contact.
This provides a degree of proof that the dog can learn to relax if it is used to being ignored, has a location where it feels settled and gets used to departures gradually.
This is similar to the way in which your dog should be trained to relax in your home and accept gradually longer departures. However when I leave the house just to check the mail or whatever reason for a minute or two, she will poop in front of the door right where I would step when I come back in. I would take her with me, but she barks at everyone who comes near me and I'm working on that as well.
I should also mention she is a rescue dog that was first taken to the shelter where she was rescued from a no kill rescue, then adopted only to be returned as she was too playful for the elderly couple.




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