Separation Anxiety

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The usual symptom for separation anxiety is destructive behavior: a dog may chew on things in the house, turn over furniture, use the restroom inside the house where he or she knows it’s not allowed, and bark excessively. And for most dogs these behaviors can be curbed, although it is a difficult behavior to change because his or her undesirable behavior is occurring after you’ve left the house—it’s impossible to correct the dog’s behavior in absentia.

Methods

There are a few methods to improve and possibly even completely treat a dog’s separation anxiety disorder. The first is the tried and true “a tired dog is a happy dog”. Vigorous exercise tires out a dog, leaving him or her with little energy to be destructive. He or she may continue their behavior, but hopefully other motivations, such as a taking a nap, will eventually take over. Repetitive vigorous exercise before you leave for long periods should change the dog’s routine; remember that a dog’s mindset is stable with routine, and if he or she becomes accustomed to taking naps when you’re away, this routine will hopefully become the dog’s new normal.

After your dog is exercised and you are ready to leave the house, don’t celebrate the fact that you’re leaving. If you excite the dog before you leave, telling him or her good dog this and good dog that, petting him or her and getting him or her unnecessarily excited, then he or she is going to continue with that energy after you leave. So, when you leave, leave without any ceremony—save the excitement. And when you come home, try not to act overly excited, but keep completely calm and neutral.

The last idea is to mix up your routine. Your dog knows what you’re planning when you pick up your car keys; he or she may even recognize the difference in your business clothes and your stay-at-home clothes. So, when you plan to be home, break the spell that those objects represent. Consider walking around the house for hours, spinning and jingling your keys on the ring. Then hang up the keys without leaving the house. Consider wearing your work wear around the house so that your dog gets accustomed to that. Again, do away with the excitement that comes from the ceremony of you leaving the house.

Hopefully, if your dog suffers from separation anxiety disorder, some of these tips will help.