Does your dog have separation anxiety?
Does your dog miss you too much when you're away at work, shopping, visiting or whatever? It's normal for them to miss you some, and it's not uncommon for them to have some serious problems with being left alone. This can cause you both some distress.
If they go over the top when left on their own, they probably have what's commonly known as separation anxiety, which is also common in small children. Here are some ideas to help you both cope when you're away and make it easier.
What are the signs of Separation Anxiety?
There are many signs of separation anxiety including: barking, chewing, defecating, digging, excessive salivating, scratching, and urinating. Chewing, digging, and scratching are signs of your dog trying to "escape." Barking, defecating, excessive salivating, and urinating are signs of anxiety and fear.
Causes of Separation Anxiety
It is usually caused by lack of proper training, starting with socialization which can cause a lack of confidence. It could also be due to mistreatment by a previous owner, extensive confinement or even too much bonding. To a lesser extent, it can be caused by genetics. But mostly it's due to something that you can control.
Treatment of Separation Anxiety
Many believe that crate training at an early age is the way to prevent Separation Anxiety. With or without a crate, make sure you don't make a big deal over leaving, say a quick goodbye and go. You don't need to give him a heads up, he will start worrying about where all his love has gone when you're away.
Also try and teach your dog not to associate certain behaviors of yours with your leaving the house and being away for hours. Dogs are very good at associating certain actions with certain outcomes. You may have noticed for example that as dress for work, or pick up your car keys, your dogs begins to get anxious.
A few things that I've tried have been putting my makeup on earlier and hanging around them for a little while before I leave. Another going outside with my keys but not really going anywhere. Maybe take the garbage out or something. Because they always associate my keys with the car, they get excited because they think they're going somewhere (which they usually are) and if they are left behind they get very upset. By getting them conditioned to my leaving with they keys and coming right back, they don't become so anxious. You can even give them a small treat when you return so they associate your coming and going with good stuff.
Make sure you have plenty of treats and toys in your dog's crate to keep him entertained while you are away. If your dog always knows that he'll have treats when you leave, it won't be as traumatic for him. There are many interactive treat dispensers on the market, which will keep him busy and rewarded at the same time. Before you leave, turn on a radio or television so your dog has some noise. A talk station is more effective than music, because the sound of human voices could comfort him. You could even tape your own voice.
Don't turn every homecoming into a party. Greet them and take them outside to do their business immediately. If you make it into too big of a deal, they are going to realize that it's more fun when you're home.
Like all forms of dog training, you have to have time and patience. In time the Separation Anxiety should lessen. If it doesn't or if he becomes aggressive you should consult your vet who may prescribe a light mellowing out pill. I prefer a small dose of Melatonin which is a natural calming/sleeping aid for humans (check with your yet or pharmacist on the amount that should be given).
Just remember that your dog wants your love and attention, so pay attention to his behavior and use the above training methods to help overcome his problems.