4.16 Separation Anxiety
This hugely distressing condition, both for dog and owner, is more common in shelter dogs. It takes the form of the dog being over-dependent on the owner’s company and not coping when they leave. The dog may vocalise (whine or bark), attempt to escape (digging or chewing), and become frantically restless as a displacement activity.
Separation anxiety is often deep-seated and is a difficult problem to solve, especially as it’s inevitable the dog has to be left during rehabilitation. The principle of helping a dog to overcome separation anxiety revolves around rewarding calm, independent behaviour, uncoupling departure cues from the act of leaving, and decreasing the anxiety caused by departure.
If your dog has severe separation anxiety then medication prescribed by your vet may blunt some of the physical sensations of panic and distress, which helps the dog respond to retraining. As with so many behavioural issues this is a complex area and a qualified behaviourist is best placed to put a plan in place to help. The following table gives you an idea of the strategies which may help.
|Desensitize to Departure||
|Distractions prior to departure||
|Care with confinement||