Separation anxiety is typically caused by the anticipation of an owner’s return and often anxious behaviors occur either soon after they leave or before the dog feels they will return. If owners make their arrivals and departures less exciting, they can prevent or decrease the anxious behaviors. If a dog is exhibiting mild separation anxiety, the following steps should be taken:
- Obedience training to set rules, boundaries, and for mental stimulation
- At LEAST 30 minutes of heavy exercise per day (preferably more)
- Crate training — a RuffTough or ZingerWinger kennel if the dog is a known escape risk
- Medications if deemed appropriate, either holistic or prescription
- Fake departures/arrivals 25-50x per day
- Food only from meal dispensers/treat toys (examples below)
- Consider other options including recorded audio left playing, thunder shirt, etc.
With a new dog, it is important the owner gets them straight into a routine of being alone. Taking two weeks off work and spending every day with a dog, then suddenly leaving for an 8 hour work day, will trigger anxiety.
- Kong Wobbler, Bob-a-Lot, Buster Cube, Planet Dog Snoop, Kyjan Slow Feeder, etc.
- Original Kong, Kong Genius line, West Paw Tux and Tizzie, JW Treat Dispensers, etc.
Enacting nothing in life is free and getting on a serious obedience training schedule can be helpful for confidence and anxiety. Teaching conditioned relaxation, settle, on your bed, as well as other obedience cues can help you through this process. It is HIGHLY recommended that you find a dog training professional asap to help you with your dog: http://www.humanesociety.org/…/training_nothing_in_life_is_…
Holistic supplements and aids: Composure (Composure Pro preferred), Rescue Remedy, Bach Walnut, CBD oil (Charlottes Web is a good option, cwbotanicals), Adaptil DAP pheromone collar, thundershirt — not recommended for dogs that shred fabric.
Common prescription options: Fluoxetine/prozac, xanax, trazodone, clomipramine/clomicalm.
Some dogs have CONTAINMENT PHOBIAS rather than separation anxiety, or the separation anxiety is so severe that they can seriously injure themselves in a crate. You have to make a determination of what the best route is for your individual dog. For my personal dog, it was best to start allowing him to free roam because he has containment phobia more so than separation anxiety. If your dog will injure themselves trying to escape from the house, a crate might be a better option.
Helpful books: Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs by Malena Demartini-Price, Don’t Leave Me! Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety by Nicole Wilde.
I have found it beneficial to have a webcam hooked up to my mobile phone.. helpful in monitoring progress.
Do you have any tips for owners dealing with separation anxiety? Questions about your own dog? Leave a comment below!