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. Unfortunately, sometimes separation anxiety just isn’t preventable, especially with an older dog. Your dog may look happy when you return, but in truth if your dog is excitable, he may be experiencing mental anguish, which is not healthy. In order to stop our dogs from having separation anxiety, we first need to understand what is causing it. Since it is not natural for a pack animal to be left alone, this can also occur in a submissive dog that does see you as the leader, but that is not completely secure within his pack or a dog that has not learned how to handle being alone. If you have more than one dog, and you do not know which dog is being destructive, you need to play private investigator. For a minor separation anxiety problem, the following techniques may be helpful by themselves. 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.
Following a long interval, such as a vacation, during which the owner and dog are constantly together.
For example, when you arrive home, ignore your dog for the first few minutes, then calmly pet him. In fact, if you punish your dog after you return home it may actually increase his separation anxiety. Once he realizes this, he will be free of this anxiety that is consuming him and so much happier.

In fact, a diagnosis of separation anxiety in no way precludes a healthy and happy existence for your dog. If you do not make your dog heel beside or behind you, the walk will not accomplish its intended goal. When a dog walks with her mind focused on her owner, she releases both physical and mental energy.
This too, although it does not happen often, is separation anxiety because it only happens when we leave the house. Left untreated, it causes damage to your house and belongings — and serious psychological suffering for your dog. When you come back, do some other things first, like taking off your coat and putting the groceries away, before you greet the dog. You may still want to crate your dogs while you are gone, however having the crates close to one another can ease your dogs’ tension, as they will not be alone. If your dog engages in destructive chewing as part of his separation distress, offering him a chewing item as a safety cue is a good idea. Slowly get your dog accustomed to being alone with the door closed between you for several seconds.
Just be sure you are the pack leader to your first dog before you venture into getting a second dog.
In some cases, dogs prefer the sanctuary of a crate to being left alone in a big open house. How long it takes to condition your dog to being alone depends on the severity of his problem. This works her brain and fulfills her canine instinct, but also relieves them of the responsibility of having to provide leadership in a human society, which the dog is really not equipped to do. 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. The primary treatment for more severe cases of separation anxiety is a systematic process of getting your dog used to being alone.
You can do many departures within one session if your dog relaxes sufficiently between departures.
Return to an earlier step in the process and practice this step until the dog shows no distress response, then proceed to the next step.When your dog is tolerating your being on the other side of the door for several seconds, begin short-duration absences. The dog sees himself as the one who is responsible for the pack and when the pack has left the house he gets in a panic because he is afraid that something might happen to his pack members, for whom he is responsible. It usually takes eight weeks or less to bring symptoms under control; in rare cases, much longer.
If your dog is instinctually seeing you as his follower and you leave him, it causes so much mental anguish that a dog often takes it out on your house or himself. Saying goodbye to a dog is something that helps the human deal with the separation, but in reality the ritual of saying goodbye means nothing to the dog.
If you successfully position yourself as the pack leader to the first dog, he will help you teach the second one the house rules. If you do not understand the instincts of the dog and his pack members, the articles on this page Understanding Dog Behavior will give you a better idea of how your dog instinctively thinks. If you allow the dog to pull in front, you are once again re-enforcing to your dog that she is alpha over you. Proceed very gradually from step to step, repeating each step until your dog shows no signs of distress (the number of repetitions will vary depending on the severity of the problem).

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