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Treating separation anxiety in your dog

Treating separation anxiety in your dog

“Separation anxiety” is an umbrella term for a condition where dogs are distressed when left alone or distressed when separated from a person they are attached to. Dogs whose anxiety is relieved by having the company of a person or, sometimes, another dog have what is termed “isolation distress” while those who cannot bear to be separated from a certain individual to whom they are overly attached, have what is termed “separation distress”.

Fortunately, true separation anxiety is uncommon and, when it does occur, it is highly treatable. Most dogs, once treated, do not become anxious again when left alone. For a dog with separation anxiety, their best chance of recovery is with the dedication and commitment of their owner and, for both the dog and owner, the support of a knowledgeable behavioral consultant.

Before embarking on any behavior modification, one needs to be sure the dog is suffering from separation distress. Sometimes people suspect their dog has this condition when in fact the dog is under-exercised and bored and becomes destructive in the house when alone.

Dogs who ultimately develop issues over being alone often have been left for very long periods of time on their own when they were very young, may have experienced the loss of another dog in the household, or have experienced drastic changes in their routine.

Some dogs do better loose in the house when they are alone, others do better when confined (but can hurt themselves if locked a crate for example, and they panic). Some dogs stay calm if there is another dog in the household.

One of the first steps in treating separation anxiety is to create an area the dog learns is safe and comfortable.  Sometimes this is referred to as the “alone zone”. Enlisting the help of someone who can stay with the dog while the owner is out is very helpful while the dog is in the behavior modification program.

In addition, using natural anti-anxiety products like herbal remedies, and DAP™ (“Dog Appeasing Pheromone) dispensers (available through veterinarians in Canada) or an anti-anxiety medication (through your veterinarian and used along with the systematic behavior modification program) can help these dogs relax when alone.

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