Treating dogs with severe separation anxiety

Personal protection puppy training
After much work and preparation (as well as acute neglect of this blog and my separation anxiety series - for which I profusely apologize) I can finally announce that group classes are a go!I partnered up with Samantha Aguilar of NYC Pet Services who very recently opened up Astoria's first day care. After a long, and much needed holiday hiatus, we're back to talk more about Separation Anxiety!Some people swear by it, others feel it's barely more than an old wives' tale, but background noise and music therapy definitely have their place in the fight against SA. I know I promised a post on training next, but I realized that will have to be one of the last posts because I need to set you up to succeed. When speaking about separation anxiety, it's very important to understand what it is and what it isn't. If that is the first expertise in Dogs With Separation Anxiety Training, you can learn some primary points.
Seperation anxiety may be preventable with proper socialization and training when a puppyPuppies should be well socialized with other animals and people.
You need all the tools in place before you should start training, and this topic, food toys, is an integral piece to Charlie's success, and one that needs to be well established in your own home.When I first meet them, most of my clients either free feed their dogs (leave food down all the time), or feed their dogs twice a day, out of bowls. If you're battling SA with your own dog and think medication can help, I strongly recommend you seek help from a veterinary behaviorist with experience prescribing for SA dogs, and if one is not available, developing a strong relationship with your regular vet is crucial.It was five years ago and Charlie was six years old. A dog who vocalizes for extended periods of time, with or without a trigger, may have separation anxiety.
Please feel free to request specific products you would like to see sold in the store (especially my Astoria clients - think about products that might be difficult to get otherwise), and topics you would like to see discussed on the blog.Once we get past Thanksgiving craziness I am planning a set of posts on separation anxiety based on my experiences with Charlie and our battle with his separation anxiety. They work by applying constant, even pressure along the body of your dog which has a pretty amazing calming effect for most dogs (similar to a big bear hug for people).
Similarly, a dog who likes to get into the garbage, chew your $500 heels, destroy the couch, and pee on the carpet doesn't necessarily have separation anxiety.
These are all common destructive behaviors seen in dogs who have been given more freedom than they can handle when left alone. 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.
Charlie and Frog have similar social skills and preferences, they're both tolerant of most dogs, but have large personal space bubbles and don't really like to play with other dogs. For dogs battling SA it may not be, and they may very well need extra exercise in the mornings before being left home alone for the entire workday. If, however, your dog scratches or chews specifically near doorways that you've exited the house from, as well as windows, these may be signs of separation anxiety. My vet said we could try him on a drug called Selegeline which is being used in humans to combat dementia and early stage Parkinson's, as well as in dogs for CCD with great effects.
DAP doesn't usually have an easily visible immediate effect, but many people have shared that (in the case of using the plug-in) they notice their dogs becoming anxious and whining when the plug-in runs out, and relaxing after it is replenished. Everything from other people in your building entering and exiting, dogs barking outside, the mailman, construction workers, trucks driving by, and the dreaded doorbell, etc.

In some of the worst cases, dogs will even try to hurl themselves out of windows and glass doors, and even break teeth and nails trying to get through barriers.Unfortunately, I have had ten long years of personal experience with separation anxiety.
If your neighborhood is more dog friendly and your dog is dog social (seeks interaction with other dogs and generally likes to engage and play appropriately with most other dogs) you may want to consider a dog park, off leash hours at a public park, or other location where you can let your dog off leash and run free.
If, however, you believe your dog has separation anxiety, you must seek professional help before moving forward.
However, it is an important level of Dogs With Separation Anxiety Training.So, everything might be very straightforward for a few weeks.
Dog parks can be dangerous places when people don’t pay attention to their dogs, so please don’t go to a dog run to socialize, always keep your attention on your dog, and be a responsible owner! Charlie's anxiety manifested in extended vocalizations (at his worst he would bark for as long as I was gone, often for more than 8 hours a day) which led to him actually collapsing his own trachea, and for a few months at a time, inappropriate urination. It will also help tremendously if you read up on dog body language so you can better understand your own dog, as well as the dogs your dog interacts with. So many pets have accidental [and poorly planned] litters, the offspring of which often end up at the shelter, and are then euthanized because there simply aren't enough homes for all the homeless dogs and cats. Yes, it is nice to have purebreds, but in my humble opinion, only responsible, well-educated, experienced, and knowledgeable breeders with the resources and know-how to breed for health and temperament in order to better the diversity, working ability, and strength of their breed, not to mention a PhD-level understanding of genetics, should have any access to intact dogs for breeding purposes. Dogs that eliminate when owners are at home may not be completely housetrained or may have a medical problem.
Some dogs who are adopted may develop SA from the shelter experience, other dogs, like Charlie, might have a double whammy, where they're both genetically predisposed, and didn't receive the proper training on how to be alone when they're young.So let's say that you've gotten complaints from your neighbors about your dog's barking. 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. After the Expo I was hooked (and left all barbaric training behind), joined an online forum for clicker training, and wrote about my Charlie woes.
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. Well, then, she countered, he may actually have imbalances in his brain that make it impossible for him to relax, he needs the medication to help him think clearly - to be able to dull the edge of his anxiety just enough so he can learn how to be calm without it.
Separation anxiety is very difficult to treat and there is a high likelihood that you will need to seek professional help to even make a dent in your dog's anxiety. She went on to explain that modern medication, especially the types and doses used for anxiety, often don't have side effects, and if they do, there are many options to try out.

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).
It certainly helped that I was gaining skills as a trainer quite rapidly (and he learned most of his 100+ tricks and behaviors during this time!) and was gung-ho about our training plan, so was able to develop a behavior modification treatment for him with the help of the wonderful people on the forum. Practice down stays and mat exercises using food lures, clicker training or head halter training, whichever is most effective. Since confirming that Charlie is hypothyroid and getting him on the proper dose of thyroid medication, I have noticed that he's calmer than ever, almost dramatically so, and a good deal of his anxiety in the past ten years may have been thyroid-related.
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. 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. 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. 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). A head halter can be particularly useful throughout this training to insure that the pet remains in position and immediately responds to the command.

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