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Everytime we say goodbye

Every Time We Say Goodbye: Dogs and Separation Anxiety

Every time we say goodbye, 
I die a little. 
Every time we say goodbye, 
I wonder why a little.
Why the gods above me,
Who must be in the know,
Think so little to me 
They allow you to go.” 

               ~ Cole Porter

Dog


It’s almost school time again. It’s not only a hard time for kids, it’s a hard time for dogs. They just get used to someone being around all day, then, too soon, they have no one home again. Or, their family changes as a young adult goes away to college. For many dogs, this can be a stressful time as separation anxiety kicks in. But here are some ways to recognize this, and some tricks to make Fido feel a little better about this transition.

Recognizing the symptoms

When you’re gone, does your dog -
Urinate or defecate?
Howl or bark?
Chew or destroy household items?
Try to escape – digging at doors and windows? Chewing windowsills?
Pace uncontrollably?

Chances are, your dog is exhibiting signs of separation anxiety.

A Few Things to try

Counterconditioning:  Try making the association with your departure a positive thing. A great way to do this is with a ‘puzzle toy’ – such as a Kong or other item that gives a treat, but requires your dog to ‘work’ for it. Another great trick is leaving little piles of treats or kibble around the house for him/her to find. (This works really well with cats, too!) If you are consistent about leaving something positive for them to nibble on when you leave, your dog learns to look for a treat while you are gone!

Minimize the departure and greeting: It’s hard saying goodbye, for us, too! But, upon departure, just walk out – don’t make a big deal out of the fact you are leaving. And, when you return, minimize contact with your pet for a few minutes, then give a few strokes with minimal talking. Dogs mimic our behavior, and if it’s a big deal to leave or come home to us, it’s also a big deal to them.

Give ‘em dirty laundry: Dogs love our smell. Yes, even if we haven’t showered! Try leaving a pile of dirty laundry on the floor for them to sniff while you are gone. (That’s NEVER hard to do around here!) This helps them keep your scent on their mind, comforting them while you are gone.

These boots are made for walkin’: Make time for a walk before departing. This helps calm dogs and reduces anxiety. If the walk is long and strenuous enough, your dog may even sleep until you return!

If These Don’t Work

Some new products on the market are showing positive results. One of our favorites around here is the Thundershirt. It’s like you’re home, hugging your dog the entire time! The Thundershirt is made from soft cotton material which you can adjust to adequately snuggle your dog when you’re not around. It’s available through your vet, at some pet supply stores (like PetSmart), or through their website at www.thundershirt.com  and it works well for many issues!

We also keep a bottle of a calming herbal remedy in our fridge called LessStress, by NHV, available from www.petwellbeing.com (also available in a feline formula). It not only lessens anxiety, it boosts the dog’s immune system, as well as improving their overall disposition.  It’s herbal blend contains chamomile, passion flower, lemon balm, and other calming ingredients.  We love this one!

If All Else Fails

If these ideas are not working, it may be best to seek the advice of a professional. Properly trained dog trainers and behaviorists are well-versed in anxiety disorders.  Ask around – especially at your vet’s office. They may have the help you need on speed dial!

*****************************

Sources:
http://pets.webmd.com

http://www.aspcabehavior.org

http://www.humanesociety.org

. . . and personal experience. Much too much personal experience!

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