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Separation Anxiety

Dog Looking Out WindowDid you know that about 10% of our canine population suffers from separation anxiety?  Dogs are very social creatures and thrive on interaction with their human companions.  It’s not unnatural for him to get confused as to why you’re leaving the house and why he can’t go with you.  Separation anxiety can be experienced in various degrees. The most extreme is a dog exhibiting symptoms of distress when he sees his owner leaving the home which includes drooling and pacing as well as possibly depicting agitation and/or depression.  The dog will begin barking or howling within a short period of time after the owner exits the home.  Other symptoms of separation anxiety include urinating and defecating in the home.  Dogs with this level of anxiety will chew on door frames, window sills and/or dig at doors or doorways in an effort to escape the home to try to find their owner.  These chewing behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut paws and broken nails.  The dog may also start chewing other objects as well (like your shoes or couch pillows).

The best way to overcome this type of anxiety is to start off with the owner gathering his keys, jacket, brief case and then not leaving.  The owner should then proceed to gather his things again and leave for short intervals of time (even by stepping onto the front porch for a few minutes).  Depending on the severity of the anxiety in the dog, the owner can leave for 5-15 minutes to begin with (each time displaying little emotion when the owner returns and greets the dog).  This is a very time-consuming condition to deal with and it requires the utmost patience on the owner’s behalf.  If the owner becomes the least bit agitated while trying to overcome this type of anxiety, the dog’s behavior will revert.  Of course, utilizing a safe place, such as the dog’s crate is another option when dealing with this type of fear but it will not remedy the underlying problem.  Basically, the process involves desensitizing the dog to the owner’s departure and return, and teaching the owner not to reinforce the dog’s panic-related behaviors.  There are ways to help a dog with this type of anxiety so don’t give up on a dog just because he misses you too much.  (Note for a severe display of anxiety the use of Bach Flower Essences (Rescue Remedy) can be most beneficial).

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