Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

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In fact, everything you need to know about dog anxiety treatment is right here on this page.
Lesson number one is that most of the behavioral changes necessary to curing dog separation anxiety need to take place in you, the pack leader, not in your dog.
The First Lifestyle Change is to calculate, map out, and schedule as many ways as possible to include, not exclude, your dog in as many of your daily activities as possible. Closely related to the previous step, Step Two is to make use of a “Safe Cue” to first get your dog used to short-duration absences.
Seperation anxiety may be preventable with proper socialization and training when a puppyPuppies should be well socialized with other animals and people. We also offer free, instant access to over 1,500 related articles on your pet's health including preventive medicine, common and not so common diseases, and even informative case studies. One of the first things that you need to do is look for the warning signs of separation anxiety. The best way to tell if your dog is suffering from anxiety, and that they aren’t just bored, is to spend more time with them and get them some toys to play with throughout the day. Most pet owners want to treat the separation anxiety naturally, rather than give them medications to help ease the effects.
Separation anxiety can result from suffering a traumatic experience, such as a major earthquake or becoming lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Unfortunately, sometimes separation anxiety just isn’t preventable, especially with an older dog. The sound of Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer**) with his familiar “Ssssssst!” command is a perfect example of confident alpha discipline.
We already mentioned the separation anxiety that puppies have, and this is sometimes something that they just grow out of as they get older and become more trusting that you will return home to them at the end of the day. This often times makes it difficult to determine why your dog may be experiencing this anxiety when they are separated from you. There are a variety of different signs that may indicate that they suffer from separation anxiety. There are a few things that you can do that will be all natural, safe and effective at modifying your dog’s behavior and helping them to feel at ease. 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. 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. The problem is, sometimes the signs of separation anxiety are very closely related to the signs that come along with just plain boredom in dogs. Puppies will often show these signs in the beginning, and sometimes it is because of both boredom AND separation anxiety. 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.
Once you rule out anything physical, you can begin to treat the anxiety and modify their behaviors. In fact, a diagnosis of separation anxiety in no way precludes a healthy and happy existence for your dog. 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.
Sometimes, homes that have multiple dogs will be less likely to have pups that experience these anxiety issues, because they always have someone there, a friend so to speak! 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.
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.
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. 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.


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. 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.
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.



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