Aug 31 2016

Separation Anxiety: 3 Steps to Calming Your Clingy Canine

Seperation anxiety flyer

Separation anxiety is a common behavioural problem in dogs.  The signs are all too familiar to those dedicated pet owners whose pets are a little too attached!  Dogs with separation anxiety will:

–  Pace, pant, whimper, or cry as the owner is preparing to leave
– Deprive themselves of food when they are home alone
–          Become destructive when home alone, and may chew, scratch, or generally destroy just about anything – however, there is often a focus on barriers like windows and doors
–          Have accidents in the house
–  Bark, whine, or howl when left alone

Ask any person living with a dog that fits the description above and they will tell you – its not easy!  Luckily, there are some steps that anyone can take to try to reduce separation anxiety in dogs.

  1. Reduce your dog’s dependence on you

–          Dogs need to learn how to be independent in order to cope with alone time
–          When you are home, prevent your dog from clinging close to you.  Set up barriers if necessary so that your dog learns to relax apart from you.  Reward calm behaviour.
–          Don’t allow your pet to sleep in your bed or bedroom
–          Provide toys or treats that occupy your dog’s time (even if you are home) to teach your dog that independent time can be rewarding.  For example, you can provide a rawhide chew, Kong toy stuffed with canned food and frozen, or treat dispensing ball
–          Involve other family members in the care of your dog to reduce your dog’s feeling of dependence on one person

  1. Reduce you dog’s sensitivity to your leaving and excitement with your returning

–          Dogs with separation anxiety begin to learn your body language indicating you are leaving and this can ramp up their anxiety
–          By performing as if you are leaving when you are not, your dog will begin to lose the association and not be as sensitive to the prelude to your departure
–          At various, unpredictable times throughout the day, go through your routine as if you are leaving (shower, grab your jacket, keys, purse, etc) and walk out the door, then return seconds later.
–          Once you can do this without your dog becoming upset, increase the time before you re-enter the home.
–          It is also helpful to reduce your dog’s anticipation to your return.  When arriving home, avoid exuberant greetings!  Instead, initially avoid interaction with your dog until he is calm.

  1. Additional Calming Tools

–          Save a favourite treat or toy that you only allow your dog to have when you’re away (just make sure you can safely leave the item with your dog)
–          Sometimes leaving a television or radio on can help sooth anxious dogs
–          The product Adaptil (www.adaptil.com) contains Dog Appeasing Pheromone.  This pheromone is an odorless molecule that communicates to dogs that they are in a safe environment.  It is available as a plug in diffuser, spray, or collar.
–          Thundershirts (www.thundershirt.com) are snug fitting shirts for dogs (and cats!) that provide a sense of security in some anxious dogs similar to a baby wrapped up in a swaddle
–          For more severe cases, behavioural medication may be needed (temporarily or longer term) to help dogs succeed with a anxiety management program.  Speak with your veterinarian for more!

Separation anxiety takes lots of time and dedication to manage.  However, it can be successfully controlled by taking the right steps – so don’t give up!  We’re here to help you on your journey.  Don’t hesitate to book a consultation to discuss your dog’s anxiety problems!

Staff | Our Stories

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