What do you do when you have a dog who cannot bear to be parted from you. A dog that follows you around the house, trails you to the toilet, dials 999 when you leave the house?!
Well I am the proud owner of one of those. My German Shorthaired Pointer was a rescue and used to get exceptionally stressed when I left her alone – even for just a few minutes.
I have several doors in my home as living evidence of my dog's distress. She would literally chew through the door in an attempt to get out of a space if left alone. Upon my return, she would be running around the house, panting and there would be wet paw prints on the floor (dogs sweat through their paws). All visible signs of anxiety. She didn’t generally mess in the house but that is another common trait of dogs suffering from separation anxiety.
Fortunately, over the past 2 years I have seen huge improvements in her behaviour. Admittedly, she will never be a dog that you can leave for any great length of time (but then no dog should be left for any great length) but I can now leave the house to do some shopping, pick up the kids from school or go out for the evening. All things that even the most committed dog owners must do.
Well first of all you need to factor in time. Curing a dog of separation anxiety is not an overnight fix. It will take months of hard work but here is the great thing. It is possible. It is about changing behaviours and this is a slow process which requires commitment. Anybody who tells you that one supplement will fix your problems is probably trying to sell you something. If your dog suffers from severe anxiety like mine then there is no way that one magic pill will cure them. However, if you employ a combination of common sense, training and supplements you will, most definitely, start to see improvements. Read on for my top tips:
I am a great believer in the crate. Love it or hate it my dog is definitely calmer if I leave her in a confined space when I go out. Plus I have the security of knowing that she is not doing any damage. Her crate with her bed inside is her safe zone. It is always available to her and is her chosen sleeping spot during the day when I am at home with her. When I go out, I pop her in her crate, shut the door and she knows that I am going out. Training a dog to become contented in a crate takes time. Start by leaving the door open and putting their bed in there to make it a comfy, safe zone for them. Once you feel that they are comfortable in there and entering the space voluntarily then try closing the door and leaving them alone. The important thing is not to let them cry. If that means that you can only leave them for a few seconds at a time then so be it. For me, it took weeks of slow crate training to get her to accept being left alone for longer than 30 seconds. People told me to try leaving toys and treats in the crate for her but it didn’t work. If you have a dog that suffers from extreme anxiety then toys and treats may not help during moments of panic.
In conjunction with the crate training, I would definitely suggest that you try a herbal calmer. Finding the right calmer for your dog may be a case of trial and error. What works for one dog may not work for another. So if you try one and it doesn’t have the desired impact don’t be put off. Try a different one.
My favourite is Overby Farm Quiet Moments soft chews. These soft chews are very palatable and the blend of thiamine and L-tryptophan help reduce stress and tension. Initially I was giving my dog 3 daily. The chews definitely took the edge off her anxiety but nowadays I don’t even need to bother with them. As I mentioned before, separation anxiety is a learned behaviour and once you get on top of it, you can start to wean your dog off any herbal calmers you may be giving him/her.
Homeopathically, you could also try Sanper 2 for dogs that have suffered a fright or have an unknown past (eg rescue dogs).
Alternatively, consider CalmXtra. This contains Valerian, Oat, Skullcap, Passionflower, Wild Lettuce and Jamaican Dogwood and can be given up to 20 minutes before a stressful event. It is a liquid herbal tincture which you can add to food or put on a treat. Also, great for fireworks night although it may make your dog a little drowsy.
The Dog Monitor app is a nifty app that I discovered in the app store. Download it for free onto your iphone and ipad. When you go out, especially if you are crating your dog, you can set up your ipad to view your dog. You can see your dog on your phone and hear if they are getting distressed. Even better, you can speak to your dog through your phone to calm them down if they are getting really upset. A real comfort if you are worrying about your dog while you are out.
I haven’t tried this approach but I watched a video recently by the renowned dog trainer John Rogerson. Watch the video here He talks extensively about separation anxiety and one of his suggestions is to shut your dog into a room of your house where they can’t see you and leave an article of your clothing (something that smells of you) on the other side of the door. This way the dog can smell you on the other side of the door. He then suggests that you play a sound on repeat to fool the dog into thinking that you are still in the house. It could be the sound of you vacuuming or I guess the sound of your voice. The theory is that the dog will assume that you have not exited the building and will therefore remain relaxed. Make sure that the dog cannot see you leave the house from this room. Give it a try. If you have any success post your comments as I would love to hear.
There are of course many other ways that you can deal with separation anxiety. These are just a few that I have either tried or think are worth a try. With holiday season upon us, anxious dogs are likely to become even more anxious if we are away and leaving them with new carers. Hopefully these tips have given you some inspiration.
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