Deal­ing with your dog’s sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety

South Shore Breaker - - HOMES - JUDY LAYNE NS SPCA judy­layne@east­link.ca

The words ‘home alone’ are scary words to a dog with sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety. Un­der­stand­ing the dis­or­der is the first step in deal­ing with it. There isn’t a sim­ple fix, but there are things you can do to help your dog cope with be­ing alone.

Sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety is de­fined as a dog’s pan­icked re­sponse to be­ing left alone. Symp­toms in­clude de­struc­tive be­hav­iour, soil­ing in­doors, con­tin­ual bark­ing, ex­ces­sive drool­ing/pant­ing and/or at­tempt­ing to es­cape a room or crate. Since cer­tain be­havioural or med­i­cal prob­lems can pro­duce sim­i­lar symp­toms, proper di­ag­no­sis is cru­cial to ef­fec­tive treat­ment.

First, con­sult your vet about health is­sues that may be caus­ing your dog’s be­hav­iour (e.g. soil­ing can be due to in­con­ti­nence, in­fec­tion, di­a­betes and cer­tain med­i­ca­tions). Sec­ond, rule out other causes of your pet’s be­hav­iour

(e.g. soil­ing may be due to in­com­plete house train­ing, no ac­cess to suit­able elim­i­na­tion ar­eas, lack of ex­er­cise, fear or ex­cite­ment from out­side stim­uli or un­rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tions re­quir­ing your dog to ‘hold it’ for 10 plus hours). Third, rule out be­havioural prob­lems

(e.g. uri­na­tion to scent mark, bore­dom and ju­ve­nile de­struc­tion).

Usu­ally, there are three spec­i­fi­ca­tions used to con­firm if your pet has sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, such as the be­hav­iour hap­pens each time you leave the house, only hap­pens when you’re away and starts even be­fore you leave. So, what causes sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety? Dogs are so­cial an­i­mals, live nat­u­rally in groups and aren’t built to be alone all day. Sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety can also be caused by trau­matic events (e.g. be­ing aban­doned or lost, death of a per­son or an­other pet and mov­ing). It can be pre­vented if you start with a puppy.

Teach him to be quiet or calm for in­creas­ing pe­ri­ods of time and re­ward this be­hav­iour. He’ll learn to as­so­ciate your depar­ture with some­thing pos­i­tive. If your dog al­ready has sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, the fol­low­ing can help:

• If they start whin­ing when you get your coat, grab your coat but go sit on the couch in­stead.

• Ex­er­cise them be­fore you leave so they’ll have less anx­ious en­ergy and will be more con­tent to re­lax while you’re away.

• Just be­fore you leave, give them a Kong toy stuffed with treats to take their mind off your depar­ture or avert bore­dom.

• If they en­joy mu­sic or TV, leave it on since a fa­mil­iar back­ground can help them feel se­cure.

• Try a spray or dif­fuser that emits a re­lax­ing odour, such as Adap­til or Com­fort Zone.

• Try leav­ing for short pe­ri­ods of time and grad­u­ally ex­tend them.

• Crate train your pet. Crate train­ing has many ben­e­fits but must be in­tro­duced slowly and used ap­pro­pri­ately. If they find crat­ing stress­ful, try con­fin­ing them to one room with a baby gate.

• Make your de­par­tures and re­turns low key. When leav­ing, sim­ply pat their head, say good­bye and leave. When ar­riv­ing home, say hello and don’t fuss over them un­til they’re calm.

• Con­sider doggy day­care or ar­range for a friend or dog sit­ter.

• Con­sult a be­hav­iour pro­fes­sional if you’re strug­gling. If they have se­vere sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, your vet may pre­scribe med­i­ca­tion to help them cope. Never scold or pun­ish your pet. Their anx­ious be­hav­iours aren’t a re­flec­tion of dis­obe­di­ence or spite; they’re a re­flec­tion of dis­tress.

With time, pa­tience and con­sis­tency, you can help your dog over­come sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety and en­hance their qual­ity of life.

Judy Layne is a vol­un­teer with the Nova Sco­tia SPCA. She is com­mit­ted to speak­ing for those who can­not speak for them­selves. She be­lieves that each one of us who cares about an­i­mals can make a dif­fer­ence and together we can make the world a bet­ter place for an­i­mals.

Con­trib­uted

There are many ways you can help your pet cope with sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety.

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