Understanding & Preventing Separation Anxiety

Though dogs are highly social they can learn to handle moderate absences. Some dogs develop a behavioral issue called Separation Anxiety which manifests in various forms: urination & defecation, destruction of windows & door frames, vocalization or self-mutilation, whenever the dog is left alone, even for short periods.

For dogs that have a tendency to get SA it is often triggered by either a high contrast situation – months of the owner home all day, followed by sudden eight-hour absences – or some sort of life change – rehoming, a stay at a kennel, a death of a key family member or major change in routine.

SA is both preventable and responds well to treatment. The treatment depends on whether the case is mild or severe. If your dog has SA understand that these dogs are not misbehaving out of boredom or spite. Dogs with SA should never be punished when the owner comes home and finds the “offense”. Also, crating a SA dog, particularly one that has not been crated before, will usually worsen the problem.

In preventing SA, realize that puppies and newly adopted dogs are at a higher risk to develop SA if they are smothered with constant attention their first days at home. Teach your dog to be alone, while you are there, so your dog will know how to act when you are gone. Leave for brief periods often so your dog learns that departures are no big deal and predict easy, tolerable lengths of absence.

Problem solving increases confidence and independence and is mentally fatiguing so it increases the likelihood that your dog will rest quietly when left alone. Try stuffing his food into a Twist-N-Treat or Kong toy. The more activities and toys are incorporated into his life, the less he will depend on human social contact as sole stimulation.

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