Separation Anxiety

It’s nice to have someone in your life that has their world revolve around you. Someone that wants to be with you at all times, who looks up to you, who loves you unconditionally, who can’t bear to be apart from you! It’s very flattering isn’t it? Imagine your most desirable actor/ actress feeling this way about you!!! Now imagine that someone is a lovable dog that is so lost without you that when you leave, they chew things, bark until the neighbours are irate with you or urinate/ defecate in the house. Or a combination of the above. Not so fun now is it?

Separation anxiety is a common problem in dogs. Often this is an adult dog that has been rescued from an adverse situation and you are the first and only person who has really treated them with the love and attention that all dogs crave and deserve. Often the dog follows the owner through the house, hardly ever letting them out of their sight. The dog gets distressed just watching you get ready to leave, such as putting on your coat and rattling keys. Most of the adverse behaviours occur in the first 30 minutes after the owner leaves. There are other issues that need to be ruled out before a diagnosis of separation anxiety can be made and so an appointment at your Kitchener vet clinic is in order, before treatment is initiated.

There is a long list of treatment strategies aimed at dealing with this issue. I’ll try to briefly list most of the important ones. Almost any behavioural problem has regular exercise as part of the treatment. Two 15+ minute walks a day are essential. Not letting the dog follow you around the house is a starter. Start with making the dog sit/ lay in another room and just watch you through the door separating the rooms, then when the dog is comfortable with that, try with you out of sight but still in the next room. Pretend to prepare to leave (rattle car keys, put on shoes/ coat) but don’t leave. Do this 5 times a day until the dog stops showing distress. Ignore the dog for 15 minutes before you leave and after you get home, avoiding those emotional departures and arrivals which actually reinforce the dog’s attachment to you! When you leave, give the dog a favourite treat/ toy to distract them. Don’t get another dog just to calm them, this rarely helps! Leave the house for a minute, then come back. Try it again but be gone for another minute or two and you can gradually increase the length of time gone as long as the dog is behaving. This teaches them that hey, my human left and I did fine!

Finally, there are prescription items that can help from you. Doon Animal hospital is a vet clinic in Kitchener that can help you use anxiety medications such as Clomicalm or fluoxetine responsibly. Pheromones (DAP) are also used to calm dogs and are available in a collar or a diffuser that is plugged into the wall. These may be lifelong medications, but are often only used at the start of the training and are removed when the dog is better.