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Pet Separation Anxiety: A Behaviorist Offers Solutions

We have another question from a reader this week, and an answer from Kristen White, an experienced dog trainer and animal behavior specialist. This week she addresses pet separation anxiety and how to minimize your pet’s distress.

“When my dog is left alone for more than a few hours or we visit an unfamiliar home, he will rub his nose on the ground until he bloodies it. Why does he do this, and how can I get him to stop?”                                                                                           – Emma, owner of a Corgi


What you are describing sounds like stress related behaviors. When your dog is left alone he could be experiencing some separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is an over-attachment to humans. Pay attention to his behaviors prior to you leaving. Does he follow you around, pace, pant, etc? Some animals will exhibit anxiety when they see what are called departure cues. These are the things  you typically do before leaving that house. It could be the shoes you wear, or when you pick up your purse or car keys. If he shows stress to any of these things, then you can work on desensitizing him to those cues. If picking up your car keys stresses him then pick them up and put them down many times throughout the day when you are not leaving. Eventually that cue doesn’t cause stress anymore because it does not mean you are leaving the house. You can do this with each departure cue you identify.

You also want to make your arrivals and departures low key. Ignore him for about 10 minutes prior to leaving and the same when you come home. Provide him with things to do such as food puzzles or specials things to chew on (that he only gets when you are gone) when you leave. While you work on this you can also look in to a doggie daycare in your area (if he gets along with other dogs) for times you will be gone for any length of time. This provides a great outlet for him while you gradually increase the amount of time he is alone. Eventually, his separation anxiety will diminish to some extent if you are consistent.

You can also provide him with special treats when you go to an unfamiliar home. Bring a marrow bone, food puzzle or rawhide with you so he has something to do. There are also many non-prescription, anti-anxiety remedies that you can give for events like that. I like Zylkene and Anxitane. If he continues to struggle when you are gone or when you are at other houses then you might want to consider finding a reputable behaviorist in your area to provide more in-depth solutions for his distress.

1 Comment

  1. RonGeddes

    January 2, 2017 9:12 pm

    Very helpful information

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