Separation anxiety is a common behavioural problem in dogs. It is a distress response to being separated from a person to whom the dog has become attached. If you think about it this is a normal dog response! Dogs are pack animals and it is not normal for them to become isolated and separate from their pack. They do not like being on their own and become distressed if they feel this is going to happen!
Destruction of household items, chewing, digging, howling, barking and house soiling can all result from separation anxiety. They will often occur within 30 minutes of the owner’s departure. Separation anxiety is very common in adopted/re-homed dogs and can be precipitated by a change in the owner’s lifestyle, such as a return to work after a period of time spent at home or a change in shifts.
In many cases separation anxiety can be managed successfully, but it requires patience and commitment on the part of the owner, as long-term behavioural therapy is required.
Medical therapy is available for severely affected dogs but will only work in conjunction with behavioural training. If you are having problems and need our help, please make an appointment and come along and see us.
To control separation anxiety the following measures should be adopted:
- Discourage your dog from following you around the house. There is no point in expecting the dog to accept being alone in the house until he is happy being left in one room while you are in another. Shut doors or use child safety gates to exclude him from the room you are in. Before you leave the room, make him sit or lie down.
- Improve obedience training - Practice sit / lie down and stay and slowly increase the length of the stay until you are able to move out of sight before calling him.
- Do not allow the dog to sleep in your bedroom
- Ask other people to feed and exercise your dog to reduce his dependence on you.
- Do not pay your dog much attention when you are at home with him
- De sensitise your dog to departures
- Ignore your dog completely for 20 minutes before your departure and again on your return. Do not greet your dog as you walk in the door and always discourage excitable behaviour and greetings by not petting the dog until it is calm.
- Change your leaving routine – wear different clothes, change the time, leave through a window!
- It is vital that you keep arrivals and departures low key