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  • Liz MacHaffie

Separation Anxiety: Management



Separation anxiety can be a true challenge for both dogs and their people. Here are some steps you can take to help your dog before and during their separation anxiety program.


Reduce or Eliminate Home Alone Time


Every time your dog panics when she's left alone, it reinforces that panic response. Reducing how often this happens is a huge help! (Some separation anxiety experts even consider it necessary for success.) Try to reduce or eliminate home alone time for your dog wherever possible. Some options might be:

  • Having a friend, neighbor, or relative watch your dog while you run errands/work.

  • Going to doggie daycare

  • Day lodging at a trusted kennel

  • Having your dog come with you in the car, if she's comfortable and happy there

  • Setting up a trade-off with a neighbor who also needs some doggie playtime or sitting

Consult your vet about supplements or medications


Research so far suggests that about 80% of dogs experiencing separation anxiety respond positively to medication as part of their behavior plan. (1)

  • This can help your dog stress less when you leave and allow her behavior plan to move along more easily.

  • Your vet is the best person to contact to determine your dog's medical suitability for medications. Just like there are potential benefits, there are also some risks, and it's important to take all into consideration when making a good decision for your dog.

  • If you're interested in pursuing this option for your dog, I’m happy to send a copy of your dog's Training Plan to your vet, as well as to speak with them if they would like. Just let me know!


Try Adaptil


Some dogs benefit from this mock pheromone.

  • One study suggests the most benefits for dogs with separation anxiety who are destructive or who vocalize. (Less so for dogs who are house soiling.) (2)

  • Outside of research, some clients notice a marked difference, and others none at all.

  • Adaptil is available as a spray, a diffuser, or a collar.

  • The spray can be used on bedding or on a bandana that you keep on your dog.

  • The collar lasts for a month and doesn't require you to remember to refresh it

  • The diffuser is best for small spaces.


Give your dog more freedom


Some dogs who have separation anxiety also have anxiety about being confined. If we spoke about confinement anxiety, you may find it's helpful to:

  • Keep your dog loose in the house or part of the house.

  • Experiment with windows! Some dogs do better when they can watch the world, others do best if they can't.

  • Consider an alternative type of confinement that is less restricting, such as having a full room with an extra-tall baby gate.

  • Re-start crate training in your new confinement space, if you need to use one. You will likely need to take things slowly. We generally only recommend confinement training if it's necessary for everyone.

  • If your dog is putting herself in physical danger due to her separation or confinement anxiety, let me know. Ideally, these dogs are not left alone, we speak to your vet about whether medication is appropriate, and we come up with a "safe space" where she can be temporarily confined if she must.


Separation anxiety can be a lot for us and our dogs! Please reach out to me if you're struggling so we can make sure you and your dog are on the best path possible for them.


References


1. Mills, D. S., et al. Stress and Pheromonatherapy in Small Animal Clinical Behaviour. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.


2. Gaultier E;Bonnafous L;Bougrat L;Lafont C;Pageat P; “Comparison of the Efficacy of a Synthetic Dog-Appeasing Pheromone with Clomipramine for the Treatment of Separation-Related Disorders in Dogs.” The Veterinary Record, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15849342/.






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