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March 2024

Ways To Curb Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Saturday, February 12, 2022
posted by Jim Murphy

This is a story about a young man who owned a dog. The man was in the military and left for his tour in Afghanistan. During his time over there, the dog was taken care of by the man’s girlfriend. When than man’s tour was completed, he returned home to his loving pet who did not leave his side. The problem now is that the dog gets very stressed every time the man leaves the house, even if it’s just for a short period of time. He messes things up, jumps, barks etc. It’s very clear that this dog is suffering from separation anxiety. Every time his owner leaves the house, the dog feels that he will not return.

There are some things that could be done to help ease separation anxiety.  Counterconditioning may be a first step. Counterconditioning  is a treatment process that changes an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. It’s done by associating the sight or presence of a feared situation with something really good, something the dog loves. Over time, the dog learns that what he was fearing is actually very good for him.  These good things could be delicious food. The dog will associate being alone with having a delicious treat. Every time you leave the house, try giving the dog a “Kong,”

The following information was obtained from the ASPCA website.

What’s a KONG?

The KONG is a nontoxic, dishwasher-safe rubber toy with a hollow center. When stuffed with food, it provides dogs with a healthy outlet for their natural desire to chew and lick. KONGs come in many sizes, from very tiny to extra-large. Some are made for puppies with baby teeth, some are made for regular chewers and some are made for dogs with powerful jaws. There’s a KONG out there for every dog!

This is stuffed with something really tasty, like low-fat cream cheese, Cheez Whiz® or low-fat peanut butter, frozen banana and cottage cheese, or canned dog food and kibble. A KONG can even be frozen so that getting all the food out takes even more of your dog’s time. 

Try giving your dog a Kong when you leave the house for over a half hour or so, see what happens. Most likely, your dog may want you to go out more often!

Moderate or severe cases of separation anxiety must be dealt with differently. These cases require more complex desensitization. It crucial that your dog gradually becomes accustomed to being separated from you by starting with  many short separation experiences that do not produce anxiety. Then gradually increase the duration of separation time over many weeks of daily sessions.

We will write more on this subject in the coming weeks as the various situations can be complicated.

Remember, pets are family!

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