How to Treat Separation anxiety in dogs…… A Comprehensive Framework
So, your puppy has separation anxiety? I am truly sorry for what you are going through, I know it can be tough. A lot tougher than dealing with separation anxiety in a child on the first day of school. Luckily if you have children, and can deal with the first day of school, you can most likely help your puppy through their separation anxiety issue.
Before we explain how to treat separation anxiety in dogs, you should understand exactly what separation anxiety in your dog is. Yes, it is an anxiety, brought on by the absence of their beloved human companion, not a disorder. Therefore, it may be easier to treat than you might think. This is a comprehensive article, that I highly suggest you read prior to continuing to the Complete framework as well.
First things First, how long is this going to take?
Well, it could take anywhere between 4 weeks, and 16 weeks to curve any unwanted behavior. While with most training you may only want one person handling the dog, and teaching while the others play supportive roles, in this training all members must be on the same page. This training is deeper than teaching an old dog new tricks, this is breaking a behavior that is occurring due to fear and anxiety.
This is also not a set scale to go off either, there are many factors involved with separation anxiety (SA) including the main fact that your dog is scared while your away. Their natural response is to engage in a behavior that makes them feel comfortable and relieve the anxiety. So, while some dogs respond well, some dogs do not respond well.
Also, keep in mind that it is an anxiety that the dog is dealing with, sometimes the anxiety may even return periodically and then you must resume treatment. Most studies done are shorter periods that show results within 8-16 weeks, however please keep in mind that the experiment is preformed several times during a specified period sometimes it takes a dog upwards of 91 experiences before they show signs of treatments working. Your lifestyle is what is going to be the main variable within the home treatment, so please be patient with your dog. We will get into the steps in the next article, this is going to set the basis for the treatment.
Desensitize and reinforce positive association!
Do you remember reading a story of how canines responded to a bell when meat powder was placed in their mouths causing them to salivate? The Canines began associating the bell with the meat powder, making it where every time the Doctor rang the bell, the canines started salivating. What we want to do here, is to get your Dog to associate your leaving and returning to the bell in the classical conditioning experiment.
But without the bell………or the meat powder……………So it’s not exactly classical conditioning, but it gives you a simplistic idea of what we are about to do, which is to desensitize your departure and return to your canine while using something to postitily re-inforce your bond.
This is a small list of what you’re going to need.
- A strong self-commitment,
- A discussion with everyone in contact with the dog about the treatment
- A combined effort from the entire family with consistency
- Some good dog food, like their favorite, (you probably already buy that anyway)
- A journal, any journal, it doesn’t matter, just log your results.
Your first journal entry is going to be titled day one, and you should write your overall goal. Something simular to “I want to help my dog with his separation anxiety.” You also want to include your personal reasons why, we will get to the plan here.
You must be committed………or it will get worse!
Fair warning, if you are the type of person that starts something and doesn’t finish it doing it then this is not going to work for you. Plan and simple, it will not work.
You see, like children your dog also needs to see consistency and stability to treat their anxiety. They need structure, this doesn’t mean military discipline, but you must see this thing through or you will break the trust your dog has in you. Then it will take twice as long to get it back, and you might have to hire a professional trainer.
Also, you don’t want to do too many training programs at the same time. If you are going to focus on SA then only focus on treating the SA before moving on to something else.
Tricks and treats such as sit, or lay down, do not apply to this statement, I am talking about training symptoms, such as bark training. As vocalization can be a symptom of anxiety, so you should treat the anxiety before treating the unwanted barking. Also your dog should already be house trained, and soiling your carpet while your away should not be an issue either. If you have a new puppy, you should house trian them first, they may not even have SA.
Reduce the dependence not treating the behavior.
In an article Titled Home Alone from the May issue of Veterinary Medicine magazine in the year 2015, Veterinarian John Ciribassi D.V.M., states that the idea of treating separation anxiety is to reduce the dependence from the dog on the owner.
Now if we think about treating their anxiety in such a manner that reduces their dependence on us as their owners, and not curbing their behavior, this treatment becomes more of a therapy than a treatment. Which is more realistic than a training, as we are attempting to change a behaviour long term, and to do that we must change thier attitude. Teaching them a trick is something alot simplier and not associated with the dogs emotional state of being while you are away.
Dr. Ciribassi also states that medication can aid with Separation Anxiety(SA) treatment, but sometimes has skewed results, depending on the dog itself, sometimes the medication can have zero effect. Remember from our previous article we mention that in the studies performed, the difference was significant, but it just didn’t seem significant enough to justify using it. This opinion is consistent with Dr. Ciribassi’s recommendations.
This is not going to be easy………But it is worth it.
This is going to be one of the hardest things that your going to do to your dog, they are going to be vocal, tear things up, cry, possibly even soil and fight you emotionally until you can help them with their anxiety. It is going to be a long journey, but one that is going to be well worth it at the end. Remember that your dog is simply reacting to thier anxiety and fear, teaching them that there is nothing to be afraid of is what we should be focusing on, not getting them to stop barking when you leave.
The end goal here is to reduce the dependence and restore the confidence of your pet. So, in that journal, under writing the why you want to help section, you want to also write how much you care about your pet. Remember that you must help them through this. So, you want to write the following “the direction that I aim to take is as follows:
- Reducing the dependence
- Centered around the departure and return
- Boost Canines self Confidence and independence
but in your own words of course…………………..
Your day one journal is your guide, as there is a lot of information out there, moving forward you are going to use one page for anything new that you learn, and the other page for tracking some data about your dog. Remember that you are in this for the long haul, so buckle down and get ready to help your Pawpanion with their fear and anxiety. We will get into the actaul process in the next article, the complete recommendations.
Ciribassi, J. (2015, May). Home safe home: Treating canine separation anxiety: help your clients take these steps to eliminate home destruction and, more important, canine anxiety when they leave their dogs at home alone. Veterinary Medicine, 110(5), 124+. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.portal.lib.fit.edu/apps/doc/A417570173/AONE?u=melb26933&sid=AONE&xid=2198045f
Home alone. (2015, September). Veterinary Medicine, 110(9), 8. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com.portal.lib.fit.edu/apps/doc/A431082781/AONE?u=melb26933&sid=AONE&xid=dbe5413a
What are some of the things that you have experienced with your dog and separation anxiety? Comment below.