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How can I help my new dog with separation anxiety?

I have a new dog that seems to be experiencing separation anxiety when I leave--do you have any suggestions.  I have tried distracting her with food and such--that does not seem to help.  Thanks, Carrie

Hi Carrie,

I’m glad you are recognizing this behavior early on with your new dog. The earlier separation anxiety is recognized, the better chances you have to manage it.

Earlier this year, I wrote an entire article for BISSELL pet lovers about separation anxiety and I encourage you to read it in its entirety, http://www.bissell.com/pets/articles/treating-your-pets-separation-anxiety/.

Separation anxiety is an enormous problem to an estimated 10 percent of all puppies and older dogs. Pets with separation anxiety typically exhibit distress and behavioral problems when they're left alone. Ironically, it is a major reason that dogs end up in animal shelters.

Anxiety may manifest itself in your dog digging and scratching at doors or windows in an attempt to reunite with you, destructive chewing, howling, barking, whining, urination and defecation (even with otherwise housetrained dogs).

Separation anxiety may be triggered when an animal accustomed to constant human companionship is left alone for the first time or when there is a change in the family’s routine.  Traumatic events that affect humans, such as the loss of a family member or another pet, can trigger anxiety, and so can events that we humans might not consider traumatic, but from your pet’s view-point are devastating, such as time at a shelter, kennel or vet’s office.

Is it separation anxiety? If most, or all, of the following statements are true about your pet, he may have a separation anxiety problem:

  • The behavior occurs primarily when your pet is left alone—for both short or long periods—and typically begins soon after you leave. 
  • Your pet follows you from room to room whenever you're home.
  • Your pet displays effusive, frantic greeting behaviors.
  • Your pet reacts with excitement, depression, or anxiety to your preparations to leave the house.

When treating separation anxiety—no matter if your pet is of the canine or feline variety—the goal is to resolve the animal’s underlying anxiety by teaching it to not fear, or at least to tolerate, being left alone. The whole family needs to be involved in treatment because there will be a lot of training involved and each member of the family needs to be on the same page. Please remember your pet is truly panicking and not being spiteful or mean. Revenge truly isn’t on your pet’s agenda!

I wish I could say separation anxiety is an easy fix, but the truth is, it can be a very difficult and time-consuming problem to turn around.

The first step is to discuss the situation with your veterinarian and have your pet undergo a complete physical examination. It is important to rule out any underlying physical problems that may be causing this behavior.

 

Kristen_Buck-60x60

Written by:
Kristen Levine, Pet Lifestyle Expert

December 08, 2010

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