Separation Anxiety

Separation AnxietyDesensitization and Counterconditioning

The goal is to help your dog come to the conclusion that being left alone is not something to become frantic over.

1) When you are at home, try to distance yourself from your dog.  Put his favorite bed and toys in the opposite corner from your chair or sofa.  

2) Over a two week period when you are not planning to leave, go through the motions as if you were leaving (get your keys, put your shoes on, pick up your purse, etc) but do not actually leave.

3) After the initial period try leaving for very short periods of time.  This can start with a simple walk to the mailbox as your dog is left inside the house.  Gradually increase your time away and include short trips where you actually drive away (2 to 4 minutes to start with).  When you come home NEVER greet your dog with any enthusiasm and do not talk to them, if he gets excited or jumps simply ignore his behavior until he settles down and then calmly give him some attention.  

4) Change your routine as much as possible.   If you always fix your hair and grab your keys before you leave, avoid fixing your hair and keep your keys  in your pocket so your dog will not hear them as you pick them up.

5) If your dog becomes panicked you need to step back as you are progressing too quickly.  

6) Never punish your dog for behavior that is a result of his anxiety as this will only make him more anxious.

Points to remember:

Unless there is a physical reason to prevent it, increased vigorous exercise (daily) is crucial to your dog’s emotional and physical well being.   If your dog is draining his excess energy the likelihood that he will be unduly anxious or excited is diminished.  

Crate training your dog might be helpful BUT if a crate makes the dog more anxious a crate should be avoided.  If your dog is not crate trained, proceed with crate training at gradual increments.

Each time you leave your dog you should leave behind a delicious treat.  Kong’s or bleached bones (the ones that don’t splinter) can be filled with a mixture of ½ cottage cheese and ½ canned food, peanut butter or cream cheese.   You can make up several of these and keep them on hand in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  Freezing the treats also makes them last longer and keeps the dog entertained longer.  You can also fill a Kong with some Natural Balance dog food rolls that you have cut into small bite sized pieces (again frozen).

Be patient above all else.  Your dog will pick up on your anxiety which will make the situation worsen.

If you are not making any progress, talk to your veterinarian about pharmacological intervention.