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Saturday, July 19, 2008

An article on separation anxiety w/tips for dogs

1. Exercise your dog well before you leave. A tired dog has less energy with
which to be anxious and destructive. End exercise sessions 20-30 minutes before you go so he has time to settle down.

2. Five minutes before you leave give him a well stuffed Kong to take his mind off your imminent departure. -- we fill ours with small treats and peanut butter.

3. Make your departures and returns completely calm and emotionless. No huggy/Kissy "mummy luvs you" scenes. If he gets excited and jumps all over you when you return, ignore him. Turn your back and walk away. When he finally settles down, say hello and greet him very calmly.

4. Defuse the pieces of your departure routine by also doing them when you are not leaving. Pick up your car keys, and sit down on the sofa to watch TV. Dress in your business suit and then cook dinner. Set your alarm for 5 a.m. on a Saturday, then roll over and go back to sleep.

5. Mix up the pieces of your departure when you are leaving, so his anxiety doesn't build to a fever pitch as he recognizes your departure cues. We are creatures of habit too, so this is hard to do, but can pay off in big dividends. Eat breakfast before you shower instead of after. Pick up your keys and put them in your pocket before you take your dog out for his final potty break. Put your briefcase in the car while you're still in pajamas. Make the morning as unpredictable as possible.

6. Use a "safe" cue such as "I'll be back" only when you know you'll return within the time period your dog can tolerate. As suggested in Patricia McConnell's wonderful booklet on separation anxiety titled "I'll Be Home Soon," this helps your dog relax, knowing he can trust you to return.

7. Explore alternative dog-keeping situations to minimize the occasions when you do have to leave him alone - doggie daycare may be suitable for some dogs, but not for others. You may be able to find a neighbor or relative who is house bound and might appreciate some canine companionship.

8. If you are considering adoption of a second dog, try borrowing a calm, stable, compatible dog from a friend, to see if that helps to relieve your dogs distress.

9. Try using Comfort Zone (DAP) plug ins and sprays in his environment to help ease his anxiety.

10. Remove as many other stressors from your dog's world as possible to help him maintain his equilibrium in your absence. No choke chains, shock collars, physical or harsh verbal punishment, (especially in connection to his anxiety behaviors.)

11. Consider working with a behavior professional to be sure you're on the right path - and to help you explore the possibilities of using anti-anxiety medications to maximize the effectiveness of your modification efforts.

Fixing separation anxiety is hard work. It's all too easy to get frustrated with your dogs destructive behavior. Remember the he's not choosing to do it out of spite or malice - he is panicked about his own survival without you, his pack, there to protect him. It's not fun for him either, he lives in the moment, and the moments that you are gone are long and terrifying. If you make the commitment to modify his behavior and succeed in helping him be brave about being alone, you'll not only save your home from destruction, you will enhance the quality of your dog's life immensely - as well as your own - and perhaps save him from destruction too.

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