Vet Blog

7 Treatment Tips for Separation Anxiety

February 12, 2015

Nothing can be more frustrating than returning home to find your sofa shredded, door scratched, house soiled, or belongings destroyed.

Understanding what causes separation anxiety can help pet owners cure the problem. It just takes a combination of "human" and "pet" conditioning. Separation Anxiety consists of persistent howling, barking or whimpering when you leave, even if your absence is for a short time. The behavior manifests in the destruction of property and even house soiling. In some cases, excessive drooling will occur. Without behavior intervention, separation anxiety can develop into other anxiety problems in dogs including noise phobias and body destruction including excessive chewing of the feet or tail. Separation anxiety is the most common anxiety disorder we see, but it is easy to prevent and treat.

The treatment is not difficult IF the "human" is willing to change some bad habits they have unintentionally created.

  • No Emotional Farewells - Any excitement created before you leave transforms into anxiety for your dog. This means do not get your dog worked up with your emotional farewell. You should treat your departure exactly like you treat everyday activities like laundry, preparing meals, or opening the mail. The best farewell is done when you get your keys and leave. Believe it or not, this type of "good-bye" is healthier for your dog's psyche than the "emotional" farewell many dog owners give.
  • Provide A Special Toy - Before your departure, leave a "special" time-consuming treat like a food-filled Kong toy. This distracts your pet from your departure and gives him/her something to do while you are away.
  • No Emotional Returns - Ignore your dog when you return if he/she meets you with uncontrollable excitement. Ignoring your pet can be tough, but it is needed in order to confirm to him/her that it is a normal activity when you return. Once your dog has settled down then give him/her attention.
  • Doggie Daycare - Consider a fun and interactive doggie daycare if you will be leaving for long periods of time during the day. A good program should provide a safe and loving environment that emphasizes exercise and socialization.
  • Alone Time - Encourage your dog to play with his/her toys without you. This gives them the security of knowing they can still have fun when you are away.
  • Exercise - A build-up of stored energy can cause multiple behavior problems in a dog. When owners leave, their dog acts out because he/she does not know what to do with built-up energy. If you do not have time to exercise your dog daily, consider enrolling him/her in Taylor Crossing Animal Hospital's reliable doggie daycare program.
  • Medication - If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety our doctors may suggest a medication that increases serotonin production. However, medications are meant to facilitate a behavior modification program NOT replace it.

By providing a little "human" and "pet" behavior modification, hopefully, you can prevent separation anxiety in your companion friend.

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