Is it Separation Anxiety or Boredom?
Separation anxiety is a serious problem that can create many problems for dogs and their owners. I have been helping dogs and owners for years with separation anxiety; in fact, I have several vets who send me clients regularly.
The first thing you have to figure out is the dog suffering from separation anxiety or just plain old boredom. I get calls from clients quite frequently who feel their dogs have separation anxiety but they don’t. They are simply badly behaved.
With genuine separation anxiety, a dog can’t stand to let you out of his sight when you’re together in the home. He probably follows you from room to room. He may chew on things that have your scent, especially when you’re gone. Your dog may become so stressed by your absence that he will use the bathroom in the house when you’re not there. Your dog will cry, whimper and whine every single time you leave him alone in the house, even if you leave him for periods less than 30 minutes. This can even occur when there are other people in the home. He may ignore them and cry for you. These are signs that your dog may have a genuine psychological problem.
Other behaviour is often mistakenly called separation anxiety. When your dog follows you to the door or barks and cries in the house when you first leave, this is sometimes mistaken for separation anxiety. However, this behaviour usually subsides almost as soon as the owner is gone. It may be undesirable behaviour but it is not true separation anxiety. Your dog may sleep while you’re gone or, in some cases, pursue destruction in the house.
Most of the time your dog acts out in destructive ways not because you are gone but because he is bored. If you feel your dog is suffering from separation anxiety there are a few techniques that may help. Here are the things you can do.
1. Start off with obedience training.
I feel that this gives the dog confidence and a job.
D.A.P. (Dog Appeasement Pheromone) collar. It comes in different forms but I like the collar since it stays with the dog.
2. Start changing your behaviour. Examples include:
When you leave your home, give your animal something that smells like you. An old t-shirt, a pillowcase or a towel you’ve used will all work.
Be sure not to make a big deal out of departures and arrivals from the home. Ignore your dog for the first few minutes when you get home and the last few minutes before you leave, even if it is difficult.
Practice “Sit/Stay” and “Down/Stay” as frequently as possible, thereby teaching your dog that you can be in different places and be happy and calm.
Find the dogs trigger… like grabbing your keys or purse. Do that over and over to desensitize the dog. Do some exercise where you walk outside and then come right back in. We are trying to make the dog realize you are coming back.
Leave a radio talk show on so it sounds like somebody is home.
Leave the television on.
If the dog is not responding you should talk to your veterinarian about medication for your pet. One of the medicines used for this problem is Clomicalm. Clomicalm merely “takes the edge off” so the dog can relax.
One thing to keep in mind is that a lot of dogs that suffer from separation anxiety can not be crated. They simply go crazy and try to destroy the crate sometimes hurting themselves. Other dogs with this problem enjoy their crates. I always suggest the plastic airline type crate because it gives more of the den effect.