How to Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety in dogs is a very stressful behavioral issue that effects a huge percentage of the dog population, possibly as high as 14%.
It is one of the most misunderstood issues with people trying to treat it by approaching it from a human point of view and failing to see the cause.
The answer to how to stop separation anxiety in dogs is simple. Show your dog that you are the pack leader. Let me explain.
Recognizing that the following behaviors are symptoms is a start.
They are as wide ranging as they are distressing for the dog, but by treating them you are not treating the cause of the problem.
First ask yourself the question: does the behavior stop when you return? If so then I suggest that you’re being away is actually connected to the cause.
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Separation Anxiety in Dogs – The Symptoms
Lets take a look at a few of the key symptoms.
Chewing –releases an endorphin similar to the one released when a human is chewing gum. This is an attempt to stay calm.
Barking, whining – this is a call for the owners to return to the pack. It’s similar to if you were to call your children when you can’t find them.
Escaping when you are not there – often very destructive, extreme and sometimes dangerous. Your dog is looking for you. So many people are told to try and exercise the problem out of their dog but it will not solve the problem.
Digging, destruction – this is all connected to stressful and anxious behavior.
Self-mutilation – excessive, licking and chewing oneself. Excessive drooling is also a sign of stress. These are signs that are often mistaken for being medical conditions but are all stress related
Toileting – if your dog is toilet trained but starts going toilet inside and you think that it is behavioral then it could well be. If it is only occurring when your dog is away from you then it is very likely connected to your dog having separation anxiety.
Becoming the Pack Leader to Stop Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Whilst there are lots of places that you can find advice on how to treat all these symptoms there is only one way to treat the cause of the problem. If you are serious about how to stop separation anxiety then you must become the pack leader.
Separation anxiety is a very straight forward problem that occurs when your dog believes they are the pack leader…
…and your are their puppy or member of their pack.
In the wild dogs do not wander off out the den on their own. So your dogs separation anxiety will continue until you return to him. Once you show your dog that you are the pack leader your dog will be fine with you coming and going as you please.
One of the best places to understand more about establishing yourself as the pack leader is the video based web site The Online Dog Trainer. The website owner is the professional dog trainer Doggy Dan. Understanding the real cause of the problem is the first step, but…
Becoming the pack leader is the solution!
If you want to understand more about this topic or see the videos that explain everything then simply take a look at The Online Dog Trainer here…
I found this while searching for something else, on Google and thought you might find it interesting.
From the Peoria Humane Society website: Melatonin the Marvelous!!!
Amazingly, an effective treatment for thunderstorm and noise phobias may be an over-the-counter hormone used by humans to prevent insomnia.
Melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland, sets the body’s internal clock in response to exposure to light.
The body creates melatonin only in total darkness (the pineal gland stops production when any part of the body, even the back of the leg, is exposed to light).
In humans, melatonin has been shown to calm the nerves, reduce anxiety, relieve panic disorders, prevent migraine headaches and facilitate deep sleep.
In birds and other animals in the wild, melatonin levels trigger spring reproduction, fall migration, and winter hibernation.
Actually, hibernation is what brought melatonin to dogs with thunderstorm/noise phobias.
Melatonin has helped some noise-phobic dogs go from being panicked to only mildly concerned with thunder or other loud noises such as fireworks and gunshots (it has not been found to be effective in other stressful situations, only when noise is a major factor).
It isn’t a sedative. Your dog will stay awake and alert. Instead of being extremely afraid during a thunderstorm, a dog may just simply stop being afraid.
It is not quite known how melatonin works, but it has an acute effect on the central nervous system’s neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit nerve impulses. It appears that melatonin increases serotonin production and that it is a major inhibitor of dopamine release.
Dopamine and serotonin are the important neurotransmitters involved in behavior. It may also have something to do with cortisol levels.
You may find Melatonin in health food stores, pharmacies and some supermarkets. It comes in a number of forms and a wide variety of dosages, so make sure to examine the labels carefully and select a product that contains the proper dosage for dogs.
Make sure that it does NOT contain other herbs or nutrients. The usual dosage is 3mg for a dog that weighs over 30 pounds. In a few cases, very large dogs weighing well over 100 pounds needed 6mg, but that’s unusual.
For dogs that weigh less than 30 pounds, give 1.5mg. For a tiny dog, reduce the dosage even further. Keep in mind that 1,000 micrograms (mcg) is equal to 1 milligram (mg), so a 200mcg pill, which is a common dosage form, contains only 1/15 of the amount recommended for a large dog.
Whenever a thunderstorm is predicted, give the dog melatonin before you leave for the day. The supplement remains effective for several hours. Otherwise, give it whenever thunder seems imminent. If the dog becomes agitated, give the melatonin immediately.
It may not be as effective on a dog that is already highly agitated, however, giving it may prevent the situation form getting worse. Melatonin’s benefits may be cumulative with a maximum benefit occurring by the third day.
Are there any dogs that shouldn’t take melatonin? It has been said that you shouldn’t give melatonin to humans with autoimmune disorders, so check with your veterinarian before giving it to your dog.
However, it has been given to dogs with autoimmune disease, elderly dogs that had a number of diseases, dogs with heart problems and dogs with other illnesses, without any serious side effects. So again, you must consult your veterinarian before giving it to your dog if it has an illness.
The long term safety of melatonin supplementation has been debated by physicians and many holistic health experts warn against taking it for more than occasional, short term use. However, no clinical trials have been conducted on its actions in dogs.
Over-the-counter melatonin is not recommended for children because any hormone supplement may disrupt the developing endocrine system, so it is believed that it shouldn’t be given to puppies for the same reason. As always consult your veterinarian.
If your dog misbehaves when you’re not home, it’s not being spiteful or angry. She may be telling you she’s insecure and suffering from separation anxiety. Crate training may provide peace of mind for both of you.
Dog owners, when they get together, will tell stories of their amazing, brilliant, astonishing and misbehaving dogs.
How many times have you heard about the pet who, displeased by its owners’ absence, left a “present” of the most unpleasant kind?
The truth is – he didn’t do it out of spite. Dogs aren’t people. People are the only animals that have an idea of “spite,” “revenge,” or “getting even.”
That’s not to say that dogs don’t have emotions – any dog owner knows better. But most will agree that dogs aren’t planners – they live completely in the moment – a skill humans can only attempt.
The only time to correct a dog for improper behavior is when you catch the dog in the act. Revisiting the scene of the crime doesn’t help. The dog doesn’t remember committing the crime.
Yelling at the dog when you find the mess teaches the dog that finding a mess is bad. Therefore, in dog logic, it will learn to hide the mess, not refrain from creating it.
If you’ve been tempted to accuse your dog of “spiteful” behavior because it does leave messes when you’re gone, it’s time to rethink what’s going on. Your dog isn’t telling you that it’s angry you left – it’s telling you it’s anxious and unsure when you’re not there.
It’s been said many times that dogs are pack animals. If you are the leader of the pack – as you should be – then your dog is, for its entire life, a juvenile member of the group. Your dog may be a victim of separation anxiety; it doesn’t know what to do when its leader isn’t there to tell him.
Now that we understand, somewhat, how a dog thinks, we can use that to create the behavior we want. Crate training your dog is a good way to alleviate many sources of anxiety – both yours and your dog’s.
A crate, or cage, is civilization’s answer to a cave or den. Your dog can feel safe and secure in its den. A crate should be big enough to allow the dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down. That’s it.
Don’t project your claustrophobia onto your dog. It likes feeling safe, secure and enclosed. It likes not being responsible for checking out every noise. It’s happy when it has no decisions to make. Never let a dog make a decision – it will choose wrong.
There are people who resist the idea of a crate. They think they are being kind to the dog. And there are some dogs who do not need their crates past puppyhood. But if your dog is prone to separation anxiety, you’ll both be better off with a crate.
If you’ve never used a crate, or put it away as your dog matured, introduce it gradually. Leave it out, door open. Feed the dog in the crate. Throw toys into the crate for it to fetch.
Never, ever use the crate as punishment, nor as a substitute for a trip outside to eliminate.
Dogs shouldn’t be left alone more than six to eight hours.
If your schedule requires an animal to be left alone 10 or 12 hours a day – get a dogwalker, or settle for a cat.
When you begin crate training, only leave the dog in the crate for a few minutes.
Have a special treat or toy that the dog gets only in his crate. Many people use a hollow rubber toy with a bit of peanut butter or soft cheese spread inside.
Happily tell your dog it’s time to “kennel,” (the word you choose doesn’t matter, just be consistent) and put the toy in the crate.
If the dog doesn’t come – go get it. Never tell your dog to “come” to you for something it doesn’t enjoy. Place it in the crate, close the latch and walk away. Just a few minutes the first time. If the dog whines or cries, ignore it. When it’s quiet, let the dog out and tell her she’s wonderful.
Build up the time your dog is left in the crate gradually. Conventional wisdom says that the first 15 minutes are the best indicator. If the dog settles within that time he’ll be fine. And you’ll both be happy – Fido has no decisions to make, and you’ll have no messes to clean.
Separation Anxiety in Dogs After Quarantine
Separation anxiety, also known in the dog training world as owner absent misbehavior, is one of the most frequently encountered problems in the world of dog training.
Separation anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways:
- destroying the owner’s property
- excessive barking
- em>self destructive behavior
- inappropriate urination and defecation.
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety often whine, bark, cry, howl, dig, chew and scratch at the door the entire time their family members are away.
Well meaning owners often unwittingly encourage this misbehavior by rushing home to reassure the dog, but it is important for the well being of both dog and owner that the dog learn to deal with extended periods of separation.
How the owner leaves the house can often contribute to separation anxiety issues. A long and drawn out period of farewell can make matters worse by making the dog feel even more isolated when the owner finally leaves.
These long types of farewells can get the dog excited, and then leave him with lots of excess energy and no way to work it off. These excited, isolated dogs often work off their excess energy in the most destructive of ways, such as chewing up a favorite rug or piece of furniture.
Excess energy is often mistaken for separation anxiety, since results are often the same. If you think that excess amounts of energy may be the problem, try giving your dog more exercise to see if that eliminates the problem.
If separation anxiety is truly the problem, it is important to address the root causes of that anxiety. In order to prevent separation anxiety from occurring, it is important for the dog to feel happy, safe, secure and comfortable while the owner is away for the day.
It is important, for instance, to give the dog plenty of things to keep it busy while you are away. This means providing it with lots of toys, such as balls or chew toys. A pet companion is often effective at relieving separation anxiety as well.
Giving the dog a playmate, such as another dog or a cat, is a great way for busy pet parents and pets alike to cope with the stress of being left alone.
Setting aside scheduled play times, during which the pet is given your undivided attention, is another great way to alleviate boredom and separation anxiety.
Playing with the dog, and providing it with sufficient attention and exercise, is a proven way to avoid a stressed and anxious dog.
A happy dog that has been well exercised and well conditioned will generally sleep the day away happily and patiently wait for the return of its owner.
It is important to schedule one of these daily play sessions before you leave the house each day. It is important to give the dog a few minutes to settle down after playtime before you leave.
For dogs that are already experiencing separation anxiety and associated misbehaviors, it is important to get him accustomed to your leaving gradually.
Be sure to practice leaving and returning at irregular intervals, several times during the day. Doing so will get your dog accustomed to your deparartures and help him realize that you are not leaving him forever.
Dogs that have been previously lost, or those that have been surrendered to shelters and readopted, often have the worst problems with separation anxiety. Part of treating this problem is teaching the dog that your leaving is not permanent.