Dog Separation Anxiety

  • Guest Blogger: Sandy Robins & Dealing with Home Related Anxiety Issues

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    Take it away Sandy!

    There’s good reason why dogs are dubbed “man’s best friend”; they love and thrive on companionship and especially enjoy the company of their favorite people.

    That’s why there is always a sad look when you go out the door in the morning, leaving them home alone for a large part of their day.

    To this end, behaviorists often recommend getting a pal for your pet so that they have each other for company. Getting a dog walker to come in will give some focus to your pooch’s day too and so will arranging for him to go to doggy daycare. But often such alternatives aren’t always feasible for a variety of reasons including financial considerations.

    Pets left on their own can get very lonely and bored. Some even suffer from separation anxiety and stress. All this leads to a variety of behavior issues such as excessive and continual barking and clawing -- the latter often being to the detriment of the front door!

    Chewing is another behavior, which can result from stress and anxiety as well as boredom. Often it’s not specific to that new chew toy you just purchased but directed at furniture such as the leg of the dining room table, with the dining chairs earmarked to be tackled next! Not to mention personal effects such as clothing, socks and shoes and even the iPad that may inadvertently have been left lying around.

    If you had a video cam set up, you would probably also see your dog also anxiously pacing up and down, and trembling while looking hopefully out of the window and, possibly, even eliminating on your favorite rug. And he could even start self-mutilating himself by pulling out chunks of fur and chewing himself raw in places.

    It’s really important for pet parents to understand that none of these behaviors are out of defiance or naughtiness. It all comes back to boredom, loneliness and stress.

    If you can’t change his environment, the answer to relieving stress and anxiety could a simple as getting him a ThunderShirt to wear while home alone.

    The ThunderShirt already has a proven record dealing with weather-related issues and loud noises that scare pets such as fireworks. And, the swaddling principle upon which it is based, works very well to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety in the home environment too.

    The new ThunderSpray available for both dogs and cats also has a calming effect by mimicking a canine or feline mother’s natural pheromones and also contains lavender and chamomile, which are natural calming agents.  It’s a good idea to use in conjunction with the shirt by simply spraying a single burst on the neck of the shirt. It can also be used to spray inside a crate or on a dog bed (as well as in a car). The calming pheromones and fragrances will continue to release for an extended period and the liquid will dry stain-free.

    Very often stress and anxiety is exacerbated by loneliness and boredom. It's a great idea to take your dog for a really long walk in the mornings before you go off to work, so that when you do leave for the day, he’s been tired out and will be only too happy to snooze for part of the time he is home alone.  But it’s equally important to see that you ensure he has toys apart from just a chew toys to keep him engaged. He may like a nice comfort toy to carry around the house and sleep with too.

    There are wonderful dog puzzles available in different degrees of difficulty. It's a really good idea to use them as a feeder instead of leaving food in a regular bowl. This way your dog will have to work for his meal and, doing so, this is a great way to occupy his time. The ThunderToy is a stuffable chew toy that can be filled with food, or yummy treats such as ThunderTreats, which fit perfectly into the toy. This is a great combo to further help calm and distract stressed or anxious dogs.

    Leaving a TV on with a channel such as Animal Planet is something a lot of pets enjoy. Even a channel featuring soapies such as The Bold and the Beautiful and General Hospital will work because of the different voices that keep the drama going on screen and help to avoid it at home.

  • Guest Blogger: Mikkel Becker

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    We’re thrilled to welcome back well-known and respected pet behavior and training expert, and Vetstreet.com contributor, Mikkel Becker on our blog today! She’s talking separation anxiety in our pets… Take it away, Mikkel!

    Countless canines become anxious when left alone. Stress upon separation spans from mild anxiety to an extreme state of panic. Whenever a dog is anxious at separation, it’s important to address the issue immediately, starting with a visit to your veterinarian. Stress upon separation rarely goes away without intervention, but more often, escalates over time. Caretakers of dogs who are anxious when left alone, find that normal tasks, like going to work or going out on a date, are difficult to impossible. The situation can become so severe the dog causes serious harm to themselves or to the home. Even for dogs who internalize stress, the state they are in emotionally is damaging long term to their health and affects their ability to cope with everyday stressors.

    There are numerous indicators of a dog nervous with separation. Signs can include excess salivation, panting, hyper vigilance, whining, barking, acute anorexia, pacing and inability to settle. Anxiety can amplify to the point of self-injury where the dog causes themselves serious harm as they attempt to claw, bite and jump out of exit points. The household also suffers devastation. Doors, crates and windows can be damaged as the dog attempts to flee, while household items like couches can be ravaged from anxious chewing. Dogs become so nervous they may even lose control of bodily functions and have accidents in the home.

    Dogs in this panicked state are literally helpless at their own behavior. Dogs don’t do these destructive behaviors out of spite as a way to teach their person a lesson for leaving them. Instead, their behavior stems from a root emotion of fear. To change the behavior, the root emotion must be changed.

    In my profession as an animal trainer working in conjunction with numerous veterinarians, including my father, Dr. Marty Becker, I help address separation anxiety on a regular basis. Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavior problems in dogs, with 20-40% of dogs reported as having the condition.

    Thankfully, with the right combination of training, environmental modification and veterinary intervention, separation anxiety can be decreased or eliminated. Whether a dog is only moderately nervous or in an all-out panic, it’s important to take the necessary steps to help a dog overcome their distress when left alone.

    Keep in mind, before training begins, it’s important to train under the supervision of a veterinarian who can rule out any medical conditions contributing to behavior and properly diagnose separation anxiety if needed.

    As an animal trainer, I want to share with you several of my top tips for addressing separation anxiety. The training is also helpful as a preventive tool against the development of separation anxiety.

     

    1. Use a ThunderShirt. One of my favorite tools in my training arsenal is the ThunderShirt. Regardless of the size or breed of the dog, the ThunderShirt works on about 80% of dogs. Even without any training, the ThunderShirt drastically reduces anxiety with near immediate results. The ThunderShirt works to non-invasively calm dogs in a similar manner to swaddling a baby.

    2. Many dogs dislike being crated, and some of their panic may stem from being shut in an enclosed area. If your dog dislikes the containment aspect of separation, find a more open area of the home to leave your pooch in that’s doggy proofed. The area of the home should have windows, as dogs feel less enclosed when windows are present. If you have a secure fence and your canine is not an escape artist or incessant barker when separated, consider allowing access the outdoors. By opening up the dog’s area, canines are less likely to feel trapped, and may relax as a result.

    3. When you leave and when you come back, keep attention on the dog as minimal as possible. A simple, non-emotional goodbye or greeting will do, rather than hugs, kisses and emotional words. The more calm and nonchalant the greetings, the less worked up the dog will get. When you return, wait five minutes or until the dog calmly settles into a relaxed sit or down, before acknowledging.

    4. Reduce departure cues. Throughout the day, even on weekends, randomly put on your shoes, pick up the keys, turn on the car, open the garage and do other cues that may signal you’re leaving. Often dogs become anxious even upon the perception of these cues, because they signal you’re leaving. However, if you do these cues with the end result being you still stay home, the cue loses its meaning.

    5. Train your dog to enjoy time alone in their own area. Put the dog in a certain area of the home, like an xpen, or tether the dog with a leash and harness next to a comfortable area, like a dog bed. Place food puzzles or long lasting chews in these areas for the dog to nibble on. To begin with, sit a few feet away and get the dog comfortable with just a short distance separation. The training can be made more challenging later by giving the food item and leaving to go into another room or going outside. Return to the dog before they finish eating their food reward. The idea is to have separation happen with associated pleasurable rewards and at a pace the dog can remain relaxed at. Play classical music during separation, proven to calm pets, to further promote relaxation.

    6. Protect your pet. During training, management techniques like sending the dog to doggy daycare or a dog sitter during inevitable long departures is helpful. In some cases, medication from your veterinarian added in combination with training, will provide especially anxious pets with the best chance of recovery.

  • Curbing Dog Anxiety

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    Check this out, a great article about how you can help your dog's separation anxiety!

    There is a new  product on the market that's causing a stir. It could just be
    the answer forDog stress and anxiety.The product is called "Thundershirt." It is sort of an odd name but it promises to be
    the best solution. Thousands of veterinarians and dog trainers now recommend
    Thundershirts for their anxiety cases.

    You can check out the full article at http://www.dogtrainingtoo.com/2011/11/curbing-dog-anxiety.html

    Happy reading:)

  • Separation Anxiety Dogs Treated With Thundershirt

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    Of course your dog always wants you around, and misses you when you leave the house for work or a night out; but for some dogs, this regular scenario becomes amplified into a fully symptomatic separation anxiety.

    According to the United States Human Society:

    It's important to realize...that the destruction and house soiling that often occur with separation anxiety are not the dog's attempt to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone. In reality, they are actually part of a panic response.dog-separation-anxiety

    This is why, they go on to say, punishing the dog or trying to train it out of him is usually ineffective.  It's not a behavior needing negative reinforcement, so much as it is an actual panic condition in the dog.  So, what can be done?  The article on the Humane Society Page has some useful advice, but having been written in 2002, we'd like to think they'd now have included the Thundershirt, as a safe, drug-free, and inexpensive treatment for dog separation anxiety.

    A few dog owners on our Facebook page have been asking about using Thundershirt as a Separation Anxiety treatment.    We strongly recommend trying it and have many customers reporting terrific results.   For some dogs, Thundershirt's calming effects may be enough to control the symptoms.  For others, we recommend including Thundershirt as part of a training program.

    My Yorkie, Rufus, would be so keyed up with separation anxiety that he would then suffer from serious diarrhea.   After thorough vet examination found no medical issues, so my veterinarian suggested that this must be separation anxiety.  We inherited him 8 months ago after the passing of a parent who was with him all the time.  Anyway, I put the Thundershirt on him in the morning at 6 AM when I leave the house - and he rests peacefully with no panting, shaking, pacing or panicking.  At noon when the dog walker comes, she removes it.  She takes him for  a walk and around 4pm when I come home, Rufus is a happy calm dog.

    - M.M.         Baltimore, MD

    And also:

    My vet recommended that we try Thundershirt for our Cocker Spaniel.  He was having seizures everyday from separation anxiety and medications were not helping enough.   Thundershirt has decreased his seizures considerably.

    ~AT, Rock Hill, SC

    We'll be putting up a lot more information about using Thundershirt for Separation Anxiety soon, but for now, here's a link to our testimonials page.   For more information about dog separation anxiety, here's an article on the Humane Society's site.

    dog-anxiety-treatment

    Does your dog suffer from Separation Anxiety?   Have you tried the Thundershirt or other methods?  Leave us a comment, and help other dog owners with this problem as well.

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