Separation Anxiety

†Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety wonít solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but he may injure himself or damage the crate in an attempt to escape from the crate.

Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning and desensitization procedures.
You may want to consult a professional animal behaviourist for help or try your self, with our help chapter below.
Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit behaviour problems when theyíre left alone. Typically, theyíll have a dramatic anxiety response within a short time (20-45 minutes) after their owners leave them. The most common of these behaviours are:

Digging, chewing and scratching at doors or windows in an attempt to escape and reunite with their owners.
Howling, barking and crying in an attempt to get their owner to return.
Urination and defecation (even with housetrained dogs), as a result of distress.

Why Do Dogs Suffer From Separation Anxiety?

We donít fully understand exactly why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and, under similar circumstances, others donít. Itís important to realize, however, that the destruction and house soiling that often occurs with separation anxiety is not the dogís attempt to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone, but is actually a panic response, not unlike a Human Panic Attack

Separation anxiety sometimes occurs when:

1. Dog has never or rarely been left alone.
2. Following a long interval, such as a vacation, during which the owner and dog are constantly together.
3. After a traumatic event (from the dogís point of view) such as a period of time spent at a shelter or boarding kennel.
4. After a change in the familyís routine or structure (a child leaving for college, a change in work schedule, a move to a new home, a new pet or person in the home).

What To Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety

For a minor separation anxiety problem, the following techniques may be helpful by themselves.
Keep arrivals and departures low-key. For example, when you arrive home, ignore your dog for the first few minutes, and then calmly pet him.

Leave your dog with an article of clothing that smells like you, an old tee shirt that youíve slept in recently, for example.
Establish a "safety cue"--a word or action that you use every time you leave that tells your dog youíll be back. Dogs usually learn to associate certain cues with short absences by their owners. For example, when you take out the Rubbish, your dog knows you come right back and doesn't become anxious. Therefore, itís helpful to associate a safety cue with your practice departures and short-duration absences.
Some examples of safety cues are: a playing radio; a playing television; a bone; or a toy (one that doesnít have dangerous fillings and canít be torn into pieces). Use your safety cue during practice sessions, but donít present your dog with the safety cue when you leave for a period of time longer than he can tolerate or the value of the safety cue will be lost. Leaving a radio on to provide company for your dog isnít particularly useful by itself, but a playing radio may work if youíve used it consistently as a safety cue in your practice sessions. If your dog engages in destructive chewing as part of his separation distress, offering him a chewing item as a safety cue is a good idea. Very hard rubber toys that can be stuffed with treat and Rope toys.