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Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is unfortunately on the rise in dogs due to the lockdowns. Our dogs have got extremely used to spending a lot of time at home with us, but, in the near future this is going to change. We will go back to our busier lives and our dogs will have to adjust to staying alone again.

You may have noticed struggles in your dog already when you pop out. If you are unsure how they behave, purchasing a camera is ideal so you can see what goes on. They are also useful during training and help provide you comfort to check in. 

Tackling this issue takes time and is something you want to work on ASAP. It takes a combination of many things, a training plan, distraction tools, tasty treats, ADAPTIL plus more!

Rosie Bescoby a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist discusses this in more detail below.

Symptoms that a dog is struggling when left alone include barking or howling, destructive behaviour, and toileting in the house, amongst other signs. It can be common for dog owners to either assume that their dog has Separation Anxiety when in fact their dog is bored, not fully toilet trained, barking because of activity outside the house or a whole host of other reasons, OR for owners to think their dog is behaving out of spite or annoyance at being left alone.

If your dog is ONLY exhibiting undesirable behaviour when left alone, it’s firstly important to realize that your dog is not giving you a hard time – they are having a hard time. It can be tempting to try to prevent expression of the unwanted behaviour by locking your dog in a crate or using a bark-activated collar that emits something the dog finds unpleasant, but it is really important for your dog’s welfare not to attempt to address the behaviour in this way. This is because it is not dealing with why your dog is struggling, and in fact will cause your dog to find being left home alone even more unpleasant. Because your dog now can’t manage using its normal coping strategies, it can cause the anxiety to be expressed in different ways (and often more extreme ways) such as self-mutilation.

Instead, we want to prevent the dog from being in a situation where it can’t cope – initially that might mean rallying help from friends, neighbours, family and dog sitters. Alongside the help from a clinical or veterinary behaviourist, you can work on gradually re-introducing very short periods of separation so that your dog remains relaxed the whole time. Initially this might mean working on your dog staying settled whilst separated from you within the home, before you even start to work on leaving the house. Adaptil, a synthetic pheromone that helps dogs feel safe and secure, can be used alongside a behaviour program.

You can start off by providing your dog with lots of independent, self-reinforcing activities when you are home – so that they start to find enjoyment in doing things by themselves. If you can build some separation in the house (but it is important your dog does not get distressed at any stage) then that’s also a great first step. Speak to your vet about referral to a qualified behaviourist.

CLICK HERE for Separation Anxiety Training tips.

Blog written by Rosie Bescoby.

Rosie Bescoby is a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist with a degree in Psychology and Zoology and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling, based in and around Bristol and North Somerset, United Kingdom. Rosie is a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and registered as both a Clinical Animal Behaviourist and as an Animal Training Instructor with the Animal Behaviour and Training Council. For more information please visit: www.pet-sense.co.uk

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