MY DOG’S SEPARATION ANXIETY
My last post explained that I realized that Simba’s snake tongue behavior was a result of her separation anxiety. Simba has always been a very clingy dog. German Shorthair Pointers are known for being attached to their owner, in fact, they’re referred to as the Velcro dog. I am no trainer but I have done some research on the area and will share what seems to work for us. Let me begin by saying that your veterinarian should always rule out any other conditions first because dogs may exhibit symptoms of panic and anxiety when not feeling well.
Simba goes through phases with this. It seems she is sensitive to our schedule and routine. I have read it is common for separation anxiety to arise from abandonment or a change in household membership. When my son moved out and my daughter started college she went through a bad period of it. She began chewing up my drywall again which she had not done in years. She was also started messing in the house. Another cause can be change in schedule. My last blog which discussed her anxiety behavior was due to my increase work hours away from the house. Another cause of separation anxiety is change in residence. I am planning on moving in the near future so guess what? I believe that like many humans, Simba does not like change. This is something we will be working on forever because change, as we all know, is inevitable.
I started off by trying to make her stay at home calm and pleasant. I started leaving soft music on. I leave the blinds open in my bedroom so she can occupy herself by looking out while lying on my bed. I leave lights on during the winter if it will be dark before I get home. I exercise her before leaving every morning by playing catch with her. She gets a puzzle toy, as I walk out the door, with healthy treats to occupy her time. When the kids first left, I would drive home at lunch every day to let her out and spend some time with her. I put painter’s tarps down to prevent damage on my floors but this seemed to discourage her from wanting to soil on them. Funny dog! I always tell her that mommy will be back as I leave.
More severe cases of separation anxiety may need a desensitization training program. For example, and this is just an example for more detail you should refer to our trainer Naomi at http://www.trustingpaws.com
You start off by putting on your shoes, grabbing your keys and purse (or whatever your dog picks up as pre-departure cues. Then you sit down and watch TV or eat. When your dog does not become anxious from this then you can move to the next step. The next step is separation within the home, making him sit and wait while you go to the bathroom and close the door a few seconds at a time. Yup, Simba and I also have an open door policy at home. She has the need to come in every 2 minutes to make sure I didn’t disappear in the shower. Once, the dog is okay with this stage you move on to an exit door. Maybe, one that is different from the one you normally use. Again, tell him to sit, go out for a couple of seconds and back in. Each time you add a few more seconds. Doing this several daily sessions on weekends and twice a day on weekdays will help calm the anxiety. Well you get the idea. Like I said, I am not a trainer. Please refer to Naomi’s site or her training posts on this site which cover an abundance of training areas.