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Please Don't Leave: Separation Anxiety in Dogs - Part 2

Please Don't Leave: Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Editor: Don't judge a book, dog or blog by its cover. The reason I'm the muse behind Grouchy PuppyTM is that I may look mellow and usually I am, but I also have a grouchy side.  This part of my nature makes me a real dog behind a cute name.  It also gives my pack real issues to deal with as responsible and loving pet parents.

My female met Deborah Flick of BoulderDog at Blog Paws in Columbus and bonded right away over stories and photos of their beloved pooches (Hi Sadie!).  This guest post from Deborah will run in two parts and addresses one of my issues, separation anxiety.

Please Don't Leave: Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Forlorn Cleo
(I'm embarrassed at how many I answered "yes")
  1. Does Fido pace and pant or show other signs of anxiety when you are performing your preparing-to-leave-the-house rituals? (Getting dressed, putting on your coat, looking for your keys, checking to make sure the doors are locked, etc.)

  2. Does Casey greet you as if you’ve been gone for months after a quick trip to the grocery store?

  3. Does Missy attach herself to you like Velcro after you’ve come home?

  4. Do your neighbors complain to you about Rover’s howling while you’re at work?

  5. Did Mattie eviscerate your living room couch and chew your shoes to the consistency of gooey raw hide while you were out for dinner and a movie?

  6. Is Max covered with self-inflicted wounds from licking or chewing on himself when he’s home alone?

If you answered yes to some of these questions then your dog is probably suffering from some degree of separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is distressing to our dogs and us.
It’s agonizing to see raw, red skin where soft fur should be, and annoying to find a favorite bath robe torn and dragged to your dog’s bed.

Dudley, one of Sadie’s buddies, panics and barks when he’s by himself. Lucky for Dudley, Kitty, his mom, is a quick study. She learned to never leave Dudley home alone. Ever. How does she pull that off you might be wondering. It turns out Dudley is calmed by the presence of another dog. So, Dudley now has an ersatz brother, Moses, to keep him company.

The goal of any approach to addressing separation anxiety is for the dog to be anxiety free when he’s alone. One way to accomplish this is to manage the situation so he is never alone, like Kitty does.

Other management options could include doggie daycare, taking Sophie to her friend’s house for a play-date, or having a friend baby sit your pup. And that friend might not have to be a human. My last dog, Morgaine, baby sat Dudley regularly until Moses arrived on the scene.

Dudley Sadie Moses

(Dudley, Sadie and Moses)

If your dog’s separation anxiety isn’t severe it might be enough to exercise her physically and mentally before you leave for work. Take her for a long walk, play a game of fetch, teach her a new trick. A tired dog is more likely to be a calm dog. And, when you depart, make sure it’s no big deal. “Bye, see ya later.”

You can also give your dog puzzle food dispensers to keep him occupied and out of your closet. For example, fill Kongs with Baxter’s favorite goodies. Up the mental stimulation ante by hiding the Kongs so he has to sniff them out. Visit this website for more puzzle ideas.

If your dog has access to a fenced, grassy yard while you’re gone, sprinkle some kibble around. She’ll have a great time searching out and munching bits of dog food. And remember, dogs need 12-17 hours of sleep per day. So, napping is a good use of her time too.

When you return home, just as when you left, make sure greetings are low key. You can wait until Mitsy has calmed down a little then ask her to sit before petting her. Next, take her for another walk if you can. She’ll be ready especially if she spent a few hours catching z’s while you were out.

But what if your dog's separation anxiety is severe? Read part two of Deborah's post tomorrow to learn more about severe separation anxiety and desensitization.

Deborah writes a heartfelt blog about life with her 3 year-old standard poodle. Sadie is shy and fearful dog, and Deborah writes with a unique gentleness about the lessons she’s learning in “Sadie’s School for Hapless Humans.” Deborah doesn’t post every day, but what she writes is powerful.