Recently I heard my Mom and my trainer discuss separation anxiety. Apparently this is something I experience and they are working on techniques to lessen my anxiety. What is separation anxiety? Well, Dogs are social creatures and have a need for social attachments. Some dogs may not like when their owner is away, but they will learn to cope with the absence. However, there are some dogs (I think I fall into this category) that become very nervous when left alone. As a puppy, I hated it when my Mom would leave the house or even when she left the room! I would howl and create a huge fuss. How dare she walk into the kitchen and leave me in the living room! How dare she run errands and stick me in the crate! It was absolutely unacceptable. As I have gotten older, I am not as anxious (or as loud) but I still do not like being left behind. My pal Max also has separation anxiety except he is much more vocal (howling) about it than I am!
What are the sign of separation anxiety? Excessive barking, pacing, whining (one of my favorites), panting, drooling, vomiting, chewing and scratching at doors or windows are usually signs of separation anxiety. Of course, these behaviors can also indicate a bored dog so make sure they are not bored and merely trying to entertain themselves.
Here is the plan that my mom has come up with to ease my anxiety:
Step 1– Exercise is key to relieving stress and anxiety in dogs. I go to the dog park every afternoon to play. The park is a lot of fun and doesn’t seem like exercise at all. My brother Earl and I also get the occasional walk in the morning. Now that the weather is cooler, the morning walk isn’t too bad, but I have noticed it has gotten longer!
Step 2-Teach your dog a new trick! Dogs love to learn and are pretty smart. The more we are focused on learning, the less anxious we will be. Also it is great to show off our new skills to our friends at the dog parks. I am great at sit and come, but there is definitely more I could learn. Max can dance on his hind legs! Cool..
Step 3– No excessive fuss over the dog (Not my favorite): My mom used to come in the door and rush right over to my crate, let me out and give me big hugs and kisses. Not any more. If you humans do not make it a big deal when you come and go then us dogs will react less like it is a big deal! Mom will now do a few errands around the house before letting us out of the crate. Now, treats in the crate also help to ease the pain!
Step 4– Increase the time spent away. Mom started to slowly leave me for increasingly longer period of time so I would get used to it. We are now up to a couple of hours and I am ok because I know she will return.
As with any plan, it calls for patience and perseverance. I am now doing better at being left alone, but my buddy Max is still struggling with his separation anxiety. It takes time…