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Does your dog become agitated when you prepare to leave for the day?
When you come home at night, does your dog seem stressed out?
Is he exhibiting symptoms like excessive barking, salivating, urinating in the house, barking, destroying items, and more while you’re away?
True separation anxiety is very distressful for your dog. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms of separation anxiety, what should you do?
First, if your dog is soiling the house or exhibiting any other abnormal behaviors, take your dog to the vet to rule out any medical problems. There are a number of medical conditions and even some medications that can be causing the problem.
Rule out other behavior problems such as submissive urination, marking, boredom, puppy teething, or territorial barking.
Once separation anxiety has been confirmed, there are several things you can try to treat it.
Basically, counter conditioning is a process where you change the dog’s reaction from the unwanted behavior to one that’s relaxed and pleasant. It’s done by associating the fearful situation with something the dog loves. For example, if your dog loves food, whenever you leave the house, give your dog a puzzle toy with food in it. Only do this when you leave and pick them up when you get home. Your dog will begin to associate receiving this treat with you leaving and will lessen his anxiety.
Don’t make a big deal of leaving, and don’t fawn all over your dog when you come home.
For moderate to severe separation anxiety, desensitization and counter conditioning may also work, but you need to work with a trained professional so you don’t cause your dog further distress. In very severe cases, medication may be required.
Dogs who are well exercised physically and mentally prior to you leaving for the day release their pent up energy. So they tend to relax and rest while your gone.
Spend a few minutes working on such things as training reinforcement, playing fetch or the “find it” game, or agility exercises.
Vary the exercises to keep your dog’s mind engaged.
Find a good dog daycare or use the services of a good dog walker to make sure your dog is getting the right amount of exercise. Doing so just once or twice a week can make a huge difference in your dog.
Separation anxiety can be very stressful for both you and your dog, but with the right treatment and patience, you can help your dog overcome it.