Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How To Deal With Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

Do you come home to find that your dog has wreaked destruction to your house and possessions? Has he left "accidents" on the floor or your bed? Have you received phone messages from neighbors complaining about your dog's barking and howling?
If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, your dog may have separation anxiety.
To successfully treat separation anxiety, owners may need to modify their interactions with their dogs like reducing the drama of their departure and arrival home because mushy goodbyes and high-pitched greetings trigger anxiety. Dogs also become more secure when owners implement positive obedience training techniques.
To reduce separation anxiety behavior, follow these recommendations:
  • Exercise your dog about 20-30 minutes before you leave home. A tired dog is less likely to be anxious or destructive if he has less energy.
  • Provide your dog with a safe area of confinement such as a dog crate. The crate creates a den-like atmosphere, prevents housebreaking accidents and destruction to your home, and should never be associated with punishment. Feed your dog in his crate and place healthy yummy treats there at bedtime.
  • Five minutes before leaving, give your dog a goody-stuffed hollow toy such as a Kong to keep him occupied during your absence.
  • Play quiet music, preferably classical, that has been proven to have a calming effect on anxious animals.
  • When leaving, calmly and without emotion say, "I'll be back" and use the same voice when greeting your dog when arriving home. Another effective strategy is not to say anything before leaving and not for several minutes upon your return.
  • Exit from a different door or room and alter your routine to prevent your dog's anticipation of your departure (put keys in pocket during the dog's final potty break, place briefcase in your car while you are still wearing pajamas, etc.)
  • Ignore the dog for about 10 minutes after arriving home but pet and greet him only when he is calm.

With a structured treatment plan, time and patience, separation anxiety behaviors may be reduced and possibly eliminated.