Apart from the physical problems and medical conditions, dogs are liable to suffer from psychological problems too. It may sound a bit unusual, but pet owners who have had to face separation anxiety in dogs are a standing testimony to its existence. Separation anxiety is only one such condition that sparks abnormal behavior in dogs. It can occur when the pet is separated from the owner for the first time. It can also appear after a long vacation when the level of interaction suddenly drops once you go back to normal daily routine schedules.
The abnormal and quirky behavior that emerges in dogs with separation anxiety can be quite bothersome to dog owners. Such behaviors could include chewing, scratching doors and excessive digging. The fear and insecurity brings forth excessive barking, howling and whining. Separation anxiety can also result in depressive and anxious behavior just before the owner leaves the house. It can also manifest itself in following the owner from room to room.
There are two broad areas of solutions that pet owners can use to handle separation anxiety. These are behavior modification and medication. It is recommended that you try the behavior modification approach to start. Resorting to medication is suggested only when it cannot be handled otherwise.
It should be noted that the behavior modification technique requires a lot of patience. The process can continue for weeks and months depending on the level of dependence of your dog. It is similar to a training process that requires time before it can be learned completely.
The important thing to remember for treating separation anxiety is that the various quirky behaviors are not due to disobedience or stubbornness. The behavior just proves that the dog is dependent on the master and missing his/her company terribly. This aspect of the condition needs to be understood completely. Only when you understand the real reason for the behavior can you be patient and caring while your dog is showing irrational and irritating behavior. Listed are some of the key points that you should adhere to:
- Condition your dog slowly to your absence. Leave home for a couple of minutes and then come back. This process reassures your dog that you will always return to him.
- Don’t make leaving a big ritual. Don’t pet him excessively and cuddle him before leaving.
- Don’t start playing with him while he is excited about your return. Allow the dog to calm down and then pay any attention to him.
- Leave a cue for the dog that will further assure him of your return. You could leave the radio or television on or give him a special toy to play with. But note that these are temporary measures and should be used only during the training process.
If these measures do not work, it means the anxiety has taken deep roots and may require medication for relieving stress in pets. Your veterinarian may prescribe a tricyclic antidepressant or a combination of similar drugs. Care, however, has to be taken that these drugs are administered exactly in the same manner they are prescribed. These drugs take a long time to produce the desired results, and the medication may have to be continued over an extended period.