Understanding Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Published: 09th April 2009
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Behavior problems from separation anxiety is the 2nd most common reason dogs are given up by their owners. Dogs that suffer from this anxiety become so stressed at being left home alone, they become destructive or hurt themselves. You may come home to find your furniture chewed up, holes in the drywall, the dog may even do his "business" in the house. Some dogs try to jump through windows and some chew themselves to the point of causing injury. Constant barking or crying can annoy the neighbors. This problem can be resolved.

We all know that dogs are social animals and are used to being with their people. Their people become the the dog's pack and some dogs do not feel secure when the pack is not together. Some things that can cause dogs to develop separation anxiety include, being left alone for the first time, being boarded at a kennel during a family vacation, a child leaving for college, a new pet or a new family member. A traumatic experience such as a fire or severe thunderstorm can also trigger the insecurity. It is also believed that some dogs or even some breeds tend to be more attached to their people. I know that Dobermans are known as "velcro dogs" for this very reason.

So, how do you know if your pet is suffering from separation anxiety or just taking advantage of your time away to misbehave? The first sign is that the dog only exhibits the behavior when left alone. He may tend to follow you all over the house all day. You can judge by his behavior when he sees you prepare to leave. If you're still not sure, peek in the window after you leave and watch your pup. You will be able to tell if he's having fun chewing things up and getting away with things he can't do when you're home. It will also be clear if he is upset, stressed, or frantic. He may whine, howl, bark or pace.

There are ways to help your dog cope with separation anxiety. The most important thing is to understand that his behavior is not his way of getting back at you for leaving. The worst thing you can do is punish your pup. He will not understand. These are thing you can do to eliminate your dog's anxiety:

First, make sure your pet gets lots of exercise and play time. Also he should be fed and let out to do his "business". This will assure that he will have spent his energy and is more likely to relax and sleep.

Next, you can practice leaving. Start by stepping outside for a few seconds several times a day so Spike or Fluffy will see that you always come back. Increase the amount of time you stay out and sometimes, take your coat or keys or purse. Go out different doors at different times. Do not make a fuss about leaving. Staying calm and low key will help your dog stay relaxed.

You can try giving your pooch a treat each time you leave so he associates that with something positive. Also, while you're trying to help him though this situation, have a new, interesting toy that he only gets when you leave. Make sure he cannot destroy and eat it.

Leave a radio or television on and if it will get dark before you get home, leave some lights on. It may be helpful during to confine your dog to one room, such as the kitchen or laundry room, as long as he has a comfortable place to sleep.

Finally, when you get home, and your dog is all excited and jumping around. Do not respond to this behavior. It is best to ignore him for a few minutes. That may sound mean, but the idea is, there should be no big deal about you leaving and coming home. If you don't react to his excitement, he will learn that it is just part of the everyday routine, and just like children, dogs thrive on routine.

Separation anxiety does not have to disrupt your life and ruin your home. If you work with your dog, he will learn to relax and trust that you will return. I'm sure you'll agree that spending some time working on the problem is a far better solution than giving your pet up to a shelter.

Joseph M. Sabol is a world class Doberman breeder. Please go to http://petvitamins4u.com or to http://theroadhousedobes.com for further information

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