A German Shepherd dog with severe separation anxiety

Dealing with separation anxiety is challenging. Trust me I know, my own dog, Tucker suffers from separation anxiety. Here are some tips that I have found helpful.

When Dr. Michelle asked me to volunteer a blog topic, I immediately chose separation anxiety in dogs, having had first hand experience with my Tucker.  Yup! That’s my wall that I have fixed 3 times.  Yet Tucker insists on destroying it every time we leave him alone. I must admit that is the only destruction he has done, but yet it’s horrible that our foyer has to look like that.  I know quite a bit about separation anxiety.  Tucker has suffered from it since the day we brought him home, and boy I did everything WRONG in hopes of correcting this behavior.  Tucker is now almost 7 years old and we still can’t go visit the neighbor without him having a panic attack.

Separation anxiety in dogs describes a condition in which a dog exhibits distress and behavior problems when separated from its owner.  Separation anxiety usually escalates within 30 minutes of departure of the owner.  It is not fully understood why dogs suffer from SA and others do not.

Dogs suffering from separation anxiety typically exhibit these behaviors:

  • Following owner excessively (I can vouch for that one)
  • Pacing
  • Excessive salivating
  • Vomiting
  • Destruction chewing (i.e. my foyer wall)
  • Barking, howling, whining
  • Urination or defecation in the house
  • Self-harm
  • Digging and scratching at doors and windows in hopes of being reunited with owner

Some Causes of separation anxiety:

  • A traumatic event
  • A change in routine
  • Major life change (i.e. new baby, new home, death of a family member)
  • An underlying medical condition

Some helpful tips for separation anxiety:

Dogs that suffer from SA are crazy about their owners, setting some boundaries will prepare the dog for being on its own.

Leaving and arriving home without a fuss.  This is where I totally went wrong.  When I would leave (and still to this day) Tucker sees my routine and then I start with the hugs and kisses “oh don’t worry puppy I’ll be right back, mommy loves you”.  Then when I get home its “where is my puppy I missed you so much”.  The best thing to do is leave, just leave. I know it sounds harsh but I wish I had done it.  Then when you come home put your groceries away, go to the bathroom, etc…then when your puppy is calm call them over and give your love.

Provide plenty of exercise before leaving.  I can’t stress this enough.  How would you like to have a great restful long night sleep and have your owner skip out on you as soon as they wake up?  What’s the dog going to do? Sleep? Nope he just did that for 12 hours.  Cry, whine, chew your shoe, eat the garbage; you bet because he is bored.  Please provide plenty of exercise, especially if you will be gone for a long period of time.

Leaving the radio or TV on. Some dogs find comfort in the voices.

Give the dog something to do while you’re gone.  How about a nice Kong filled with peanut butter and his favorite treats?  That will give him something to do and he will know when you leave that special treat is coming, making him less sensitive to your departure and focused on that yummy snack.

Doggy daycare is a great way for your dog to get some energy out and socialize.  Even if you can do it just a couple days a week.  Who knows maybe he’ll even still be tired the next day.

If all else fails, there is medication that can help with your dog’s SA.  Please speak to your veterinarian if your case seems more then excessive or your dog is harming himself.  A DAP collar maybe a great alternative in keeping your dog calm when you’re gone.

I know this disorder can be very hard to cope with.  My husband even asked if we could get Tucker declawed (just kidding).  Right now we are trying out those winter booties on him when we are gone.  We would like to fix the wall once  and for all.  Good luck to all of those owners dealing with Separation Anxiety, hopefully these tips can make life a little easier.

Check out these links, for more information on separation anxiety in dogs.

http://www.usask.ca/wcvm/herdmed/applied-ethology/behaviourproblems/anxiety.html

http://www.barkbusters.ca/advice/separation-anxiety

http://www.thundershirt.com/HowItWorks/

http://www.vcahospitals.com/main/pet-health-information/article/animal-health/separation-anxiety-in-dogs/172

http://www.vetinfo.com/dsepanx.html