Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

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Preventing Separation AnxietyGet your puppy used to being alone for brief -- then gradually longer -- periods of time.
In severe cases of separation anxiety, in conjunction with behavior modification, psychotropic medication (such as Clomicalm) may be recommended by your vet or behaviorist. Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director and canine behavioral consultant.
Canine Separation Anxiety Dogs are social animals that form strong bonds with people, so it is not surprising that they may feel somewhat anxious when separated from their social group.
Separation anxiety may be manifested as destruction of the owner's property and other behaviors that may be harmful for the dog or annoying for people sharing the dog's immediate environment. It is important to realize that dogs with separation anxiety are not doing these things to get even with the owner for leaving, out of boredom, or due to lack of obedience training. The onset of separation anxiety sometimes occurs after the dog is exposed to an experience that disrupts its social bond. Separation anxiety may be confused with other separation-related behavior problems that occur in the owner's absence. It also has been reported that mixed breed dogs appear to suffer from separation anxiety more commonly than purebred dogs. It is possible that some dogs are genetically predisposed to develop stronger than normal attachment to members of their social group. To reduce the tension, dogs may engage in destructive behavior, house soiling, and distress vocalization.
Dogs with separation anxiety may become so distressed in their owners' absence that they urinate or defecate in the house.
First, your dog can be made to "down-stay" while you are in the room but otherwise occupied.
Alternatively, you can train your dog to enjoy sleeping in a crate to prevent unwanted excursions. Many owners erroneously feel that if separation is so stressful, then they should spend more time with their dog before leaving. A decrease in some fear and anxiety has been seen in conditions when some dogs are switched from a high protein, high energy food to a low protein (16 to 22 percent), "all-natural" diet (with no artificial preservatives).


Audio or video recordings of your dog's behavior when you are away can help confirm a diagnosis of separation anxiety and can be helpful to allow you to monitor her improvement.
You may have wondered about getting a pet for your dog, so she won't be lonely when you are away.
Dogs should never be punished for the physical consequences of their distress when separated from you. One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety become agitated when their guardians prepare to leave.
Owners of dogs that show separation distress are often nurturing, empathetic people who indulge their dog. A lack of stimulation leads some dogs to engage in excessive and destructive "exploring," barking and other nuisance behavior. However, geriatric dogs may develop separation anxiety in response to physical discomfort accompanying old age.
Distress vocalization and active seeking behavior occur when many social animals are separated from their companions. When this occurs only in the owner's absence, such "inappropriate" elimination is not indicative of a loss of house training but rather is a physiological response to the extreme distress the dog is experiencing from being alone. Every time a dog with separation anxiety becomes anxious when its owner leaves, the distress she feels is reinforced until she becomes absolutely frantic every time she is left alone.
For dogs that display "barrier frustration," the use of a crate in this way is counterproductive. This program is recommended only under special circumstances because it requires that you never leave your dog alone during the entire retraining period, which can be weeks or months.
Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety. These dogs become less independent and more emotionally attached to the owners as a consequence of their infirmity.


However, you have to accept that the anxiety your dog experiences in your absence is destructive.
Exercise helps to dissipate anxiety and provides constructive interaction between you and your dog.
Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs It is widely held that dogs with a dysfunctional background (adopted from shelters, puppy mills, pet stores, dogs that have had multiple owners or traumatic handling early in life) are more prone to separation anxiety. Presentation of Canine Separation Anxiety Unwanted behavioral signs of separation anxiety are only seen when the owner is absent, or when the dog is prevented from being close to the owner (at night, for instance). Essential components of the independence training program are as follows: Your dog can be with you, but the amount of interaction time should be reduced, especially where attention-seeking behaviors are concerned. Make a list of the things you normally do before leaving for the day (and anxiety occurs) and the things done before a short time out (and no anxiety occurs).Then mix up the cues. Usually, right after a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety, the dog will begin barking and displaying other distress behaviors within a short time after being left alone-often within minutes. The dog with separation anxiety is distinguished by signs of distress when left alone and over-attachment when the owner is present. Under such circumstances, a needy dog is in a high state of anxiety because she wants to be with her owner and is prevented from doing so.
Even if your dog has a large yard to run in all day, the aerobic exercise will be beneficial since most dogs will not tire themselves if left to their own devices.
Medication for Dogs with Separation Anxiety Medication is often used in conjunction with the above treatment strategies and is generally helpful.
You can set up child gates to deny your dog access into the room in which you are doing something (i.e. When performed correctly, this program can be very helpful in resolving separation anxiety. Entering and exiting through various doors you leave and return can also mix up cues for your dog. You may also want to consider tattooing or microchipping your dog so she can be identified if she panics and escapes.



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