CANINE SEPARATION ANXIETY
Canine separation anxiety is a complex behavioral disorder that occurs in response to separation from the person to whom the dog is most attached. Dogs with this disorder are often well behaved when the owner or family is home, but when left alone they panic. Signs include destructive behavior such as chewing and digging, inappropriate elimination, excessive salivation, as well as barking and whining. Fourteen percent of dogs suffer from this problem, and it is the second leading cause of euthanasia by vets.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
* A way to be sure whether or not your dog suffers from separation anxiety is to videotape him when you leave. There are other disorders and illnesses with similar signs, so a consultation with your vet is important to establish the correct diagnosis.
* Dogs with separation anxiety cannot control their behavior, so punishment is not the answer. Verbal reprimands and punishment can actually make your dog more anxious and make the problem worse. The addition of another dog to the household usually does not help.
* To control canine separation anxiety medication and behavioral modification are most effective. The behavioral modification program is simple and easy to follow. For example, you might be told to avoid elaborate good-byes (ignore your dog 30 minutes before you leave) and leave a special food-filled treat in your absence. When you come home, ignore your dog until he is quiet and relaxed. Avoid constant physical contact with your dog to encourage independence. Teach your dog to sit and stay in place, and praise his calm behavior as you increase the distance between you, as well as the amount of time you spend being away. This helps him become independent and cope with being alone.
* As a complementary treatment, try the Bach Flower Essence Rescue Remedy – put a few drops in the water bowl so that your dog has access to it all day long.
When you leave a dog that suffers from canine separation anxiety, the dog panics and starts to get upset the minute you get ready to go. Try desensitizing your dog by giving him departure clues, like putting on your coat, and playing with your car keys at times other than when you are going to leave. This helps your dog gradually gain self-confidence and become less dependent on you.
WHAT YOUR VET CAN DO
* Separation anxiety is best controlled though a two-part plan that combines behavioral training with a daily medication called Clomicalm. Clomicalm helps relieve your dog’s anxiety and makes it easier for him to learn new positive behaviors. At least 75 percent of dogs on this treatment show an improvement in less than 30 days. The length of treatment varies with the individual case.
* Acupuncture may be effective in some cases since it temporarily increases the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine that help regulate behavior.
(NOTE: Behavior modification techniques establish a well-balanced relationship with our pet and promote independence in your dog.)