Separation anxiety is a common reason for dogs to be referred to a veterinary behaviorist for specialist treatment.
Many dogs bark, chew the furniture and dig holes when they are left alone, but this is often due to boredom. Dogs with separation anxiety do the same, but they are extremely distressed and panicked. They pace the floor, pant constantly and often bark and howl with distress. It's very difficult for their owner to leave home because they know they are leaving their four legged family member in misery.
Separation anxiety in dogs can be treated. It's important to understand that a complete cure may not be possible for every dog. Most dogs will respond to treatment to the extent that they can better cope with being left alone at home.
How to Manage Separation AnxietyEvery dog is different, and each will benefit differently from these management techniques. Chat to your vet about which would be most suited for your anxious dog.
Medication.Drugs such as fluoxetine can reduce your dog's anxiety and help him to feel calmer when he is alone. These aren't a stand alone solution; they should be used together with a carefully planned retraining program. Your dog can be taught new behaviors while the medication helps to prevent him feeling anxious and helps him learn.
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Pheromones.The Dog Appeasing Pheromone is a chemical that is produced by a bitch when she is feeding her puppies. It helps the pups relax and bond with her. It has been found that this pheromone can also help dogs with anxiety. A plug in diffuser is available that will spread pheromones through a room, and it should make life easier for your anxious dog.
Training.Your dog has learned that when you pick up your keys or put on your shoes, you are leaving him alone and his anxiety levels will start to rise even before you go out the door. Your vet can help you to develop a retraining program so he isn't bothered by these signals.
Special toys.Purchase some toys that your dog only gets when you are out. Fill a treat dispensing toy such as a Buster Cube with your dog's kibble. He'll spend hours playing with it, trying to get the food out. (Roly loves these!)
Doggie Day Care.This is a great way to provide companionship to your anxious dog while you're at work. He will have other dogs to play with, comfy beds to doze on and plenty of cuddles. He may not even notice that you're gone!
Adopt a Second Dog.If your budget allows, think about bringing another dog into your family. Dogs are pack animals and really aren't designed to spend long periods of time on their own. Take your time when choosing a second dog, as you don't want to create an even greater a problem.
Separation anxiety is distressing for your dog, and for you. There are things you can do to ease his distress, and this will allow you to leave your home without worrying about your dog's well being.
Thanks to Susan for this super useful guest post! Susan Wright DMV is a dog expert, a vet and a freelance writer, more articles available on health conditions as they relate to dogs.