Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Does Your Dog Suffer From Separation Anxiety?

(C) Allen Pearson, All Rights Reserved
If you have been noticing that your dog is behaving anxiously when you prepare to go out, it may be a sign of separation anxiety. Dogs who have formed a strong bond with their owner can experience significant distress when you leave the house. This can happen after disruption to your dog’s routine, such as moving home, the introduction of a new member of the household, going on vacation or going back to work after having spent more time at home. Sometimes, it can occur out of the blue with no obvious cause.

Spotting the Signs
Look for signs of distress and anxiety as you get ready to go out. This will often happen when your dog spots patterns that signal your imminent departure, such as picking up keys or putting on your shoes.

Once you have left the house, your dog will engage in behavior such as frequent or constant barking, crying and howling, inappropriate urination and/or defecation, digging and destructive chewing.

On your return home, you will usually receive an overly enthusiastic welcome from your dog.

You may also notice that your dog has become more “clingy” and dependent on you when you are at home, often to the point of accompanying you around the house.

How to Help Your Dog
Desensitizing your dog is a mainstay of overcoming separation anxiety. Firstly, you will need to make sure that your dog is less distressed at the idea of spending time apart. This can sound near impossible if your dog is currently anxious at the very prospect but it can be successfully achieved with the right kind of training.

In the very beginning, you’ll only want to leave your dog alone for just a few minutes at a time so that there is barely time for you to be missed. Gradually lengthen this time over a period of several weeks until your dog is more comfortable with the situation.

You will undoubtedly notice that your dog’s anxiety is triggered by certain actions, such as putting on your coat. Your dog associates this with you leaving the house and begins to become anxious. You can desensitize your dog to this by performing these actions even when you are not actually going out. The idea is that it will teach your dog not to panic when they notice you doing these things.

By now, your dog should have become desensitized to the previous triggers and be less anxious at spending time apart. The next step is to train your dog to be less anxious when you are out of the house. Again, this needs to be done gradually. Start off by leaving the house for less than a minute initially and work towards a longer period of time. Expect this part of the training to the most challenging as this is usually the most distressing part for dogs who are suffering from separation anxiety.

If your dog has a severe case of separation anxiety, your vet may recommend that you combine training with anti-anxiety medication.

Animed Direct are a leading supplier of pet medicines and pet care products in the UK and Europe.

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