September 30, 2009
Let’s Stay Together: How to Help Your Pet Overcome Separation Anxiety
The month of September signifies a time of change: the season turns, school starts and vacations come to an end. Unfortunately, for many dogs, this departure from routineespecially the increased absence of two-legged friendscan be very unsettling. In response, poor Fido may start acting disruptive or destructive when left home alone. He may resort to urinating and defecating in the house, howling, chewing, pacing or trying to escape from the house or yard. When these issues are accompanied by signs of panic, distress or depression, they may indicate that your pet suffers from separation anxiety.
“Dogs re-homed during or after their adolescence are at greater risk of suffering separation anxiety than puppies,” says Jacque Schultz, ASPCA Senior Director of Community Outreach. “This is because lack of life experience has made them less resilient to changes in their routine and environment. They cling to their new guardian and panic when that guardian leaves home to go about his or her daily business.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should steer clear of adopting adolescent or elder poochesespecially since they make such great companionsso we’re here to help! When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the underlying issue by teaching him to enjoyor at least toleratebeing left alone. Our experts have put together a list of top tips for helping your pooch overcome separation anxiety. Here’s a sneak peek at their advice:
Doctor Knows Best: The first step in tackling pet behavior issues is to rule out any underlying medical problems that might be causing them. For example, if your pet is urinating in the house, he might be suffering from a urinary tract infection, bladder stones, diabetes or kidney diseaseall of which can cause urinary incontinence in dogs.
Conquer the Fear: If your pooch suffers from mild separation anxiety, try counter conditioning, or helping your dog associate being alone with something good, like a tasty treat. This might reduce or resolve the problem. To develop this kind of association, offer your dog a food-dispensing toy stuffed with healthy treats every time you leave the house.
Dogs Need Jobs: Providing lots of physical and mental stimulation is a vital part of treating many behavior problems, especially those involving anxiety. Exercise can enrich your dog’s life, decrease stress and provide appropriate outlets for normal behavior. Plus, a tired dog doesn’t have much excess energy to burn when he’s left alone!
Learn more about teaching your dog how to be comfortable being aloneread our complete guide to overcoming separation anxiety.
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