One of the most common behavioral issues found in dogs that are older in Fayetteville is separation anxiety. A dog suffering from separation anxiety will become noticeably anxious if he or she senses the owner is leaving the home. Following the departure of the owner, dogs that have separation anxiety most often become destructive, howls or barks, profusely salivate, or even urinate and defecate inside your home. Additionally, once the owner returns home, the dog become excessively exuberant.
There are many situations that can make a dog anxious, and this is especially true for older dogs as they may suffer from a decreased capacity to deal with changes to routine. Furthermore, hearing or vision loss can make a dog more anxious. However, separation anxiety is especially noticeable when the dog is separated from the master. As a dog ages, neurological changes tend to limit the ability of a dog to adjust to new situations.
Some important considerations before treating a dog with separation anxiety are:
- Making a big deal about coming home or leaving will reinforce bad behavior. Instead, you need to teach your dog to simply relax. If your dog can grasp the concept of relaxing in a “stay” for an extended period of time, you are getting there. At this point, if your dog can learn this then the dog will have an easier time learning to relax while you are away.
- Change the clues that you are about to leave. The truth is that most dogs understand the moment the alarm sounds that you are getting up to leave. In fact, these dogs will begin getting anxious at the sound of the alarm. So, you need to switch your routine up so that your dog does not know you are about to leave. For example, take your car keys and simply sit on the couch. Another idea is to go ahead and wake up on your day off and get dressed as if you are going to work; instead of going to work, just stay home.
- Begin with very brief departures as this will help you determine exactly how long your dog can be left before becoming anxious. In the beginning this may only be for as little as 10 seconds. If so, leave for only 5 seconds and then return. If your dog remained calm within the 5 seconds you were gone then reward the dog with a treat. Use this system to increase the amount of time you are gone gradually, but always make sure you return before the dog becomes anxious so you can reward the dog for remaining calm. Patience is key to this process because it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months.
- Associate you leaving with something positive. For example, before you leave each time give your dog a toy that is hollow like the ‘Kong’ and fill it with your dog’s favorite treats. This may be the perfect tool for your dog to take its mind off your departure. Anxiety has the tendency of feeding on itself, so if you can prevent the anxiety from occurring while you are leaving, the dog will be able to stay calm after you are gone. Just make sure your dog is left in an environment that is comfortable. In other words, make sure you leave a soft bed, some sunlight, calming music, and a good temperature. Some dogs find it easier to relax if they are able to look outside, however this may make some dogs more anxious. Much the same, some dogs that are older become anxious if they are left outdoors, but do much better if they are allowed to stay inside. Decide what is the most comforting for your dog.
- Crate train your dog. Due to being ‘den’ animals, most dogs feel safest in a crate. Also, a crate will prevent your dog from becoming destructive which is not only safer for your dog, but for your home as well.
- Break-up the hours in the dog’s day. If you are gone for long periods of time each day, it may be beneficial for you to have someone else come in while you are gone to let the dog out to use the bathroom and get a little exercise. Some dogs, especially older ones, need to go outside to defecate and urinate more often. By giving your dog enough opportunities to go outside it may reduce some of the dog’s anxiety.
- Employ a team approach. Although medication alone will not solve the problem, there are medications on the market that are anti-anxiety (i.e. Clomicalm) and they are often times needed to help break the separation anxiety cycle. The best thing for you to do is talk with a dog behaviorist and your Fayetteville veterinarian to create a plan that will best suit your dog and you.
If you’re looking for a professional veterinarian in Fayetteville, Arkansas then please call us today at (479) 521-5220 or complete our online request form.
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