Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's
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Thread: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

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    Senior Member Darkmoon's Avatar
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    Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    Separation Anxiety (SA) in Dogs

    What is Separation Anxiety (SA) and what causes it?
    I would LOVE to give you this answer, but sadly no one really knows. It occurs in all breeds of dog, some are more prone to SA then others. “Velcro” breeds like Boxers and Doberman Pinschers seem to be more prone to it, but this doesn’t mean they will all have it. Many shelter dogs also have some form of SA. I mean, think about it: if you were just dropped off by your family (maybe even multiple times by different families) and they never came back, wouldn’t you start to be scared that the new people you love would never return, too?

    SA can also be caused by a simple thyroid issue that can be seen in a thyroid test. This is something that most Vets will not think to check this out, so make sure to have a full blood panel and thyroid check done if you believe your dog has SA. A simple pill once a day may be all that your dog needs to be happy again.

    What are the symptoms of SA?
    SA is not something that you should self diagnose. A trained professional, such as an Animal Behaviorist or a Veterinarian, should be the one to do it. Many of the symptoms of SA can be confused for simple boredom, lack of exercise, or not being fully housebroken, so do not be automatically alarmed if you see bad habits arising.

    Symptoms vary from website to website, Vet to Vet, and dog to dog. No one can really agree on them.

    The HSUS (http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/ou...n_anxiety.html) states:
    • The behavior occurs exclusively or primarily when he's left alone.
    • He follows you from room to room whenever you're home.
    • He displays effusive, frantic greeting behaviors.
    • The behavior always occurs when he's left alone, whether for a short or long period of time.
    • He reacts with excitement, depression, or anxiety to your preparations to leave the house.
    • He dislikes spending time outdoors by himself.

    The problem with some of these statements is that sometimes the dog performs these behaviors simply because it is his nature to do so, NOT because he has SA. Some breeds are clingy and like to follow their people from room to room. Does that automatically mean they have SA? No. Similarly, some dogs don’t like to be outside alone and/or get very excited when someone comes home, but do not suffer from SA.

    I like the list from Wagntrain.com (http://www.wagntrain.com/SeparationAnx.htm)
    But, again, remember many things listed are, for some breeds, normal behavior.

    • The dog chews on a variety of things, but chewing is often focused on items that smell most like you (or a particular person in your house) such as recently discarded clothes, including underwear or socks, or favorite chairs; and /or escape routes (doors or windows). The dog only chews these items when you're gone.
    • The dog tries to stay close to the things that smell most of you (chewed stuff will still be warm when you get home)
    • The dog pees or poops inappropriately, sometimes in many locations.
    • The dog barks continuously during the day, perhaps after a build-up of whining. The barking is not on-off-on-off.
    • The dog always shows these behaviors when left alone, even for short periods (30 minutes or less).
    • The dog is wild to greet you, and is still stressed, anxious and clingy when you first arrive home. The dog does not appear "guilty" over destroyed items.
    • Destruction begins soon after you leave; or possibly again shortly before you come home.
    • The dog cannot be isolated from you at any time, even in a different room with the door closed.
    • The dog sleeps with you. (This does not mean that all dogs who sleep with their owners will get separation anxiety. It does mean that dogs that survive being apart from you at night can survive it during the day, too).
    • Sometimes, the dog can be left alone in a car (for any length of time) or other unusual location, without showing anxiety or destructiveness. Sometimes the dog can be left with anyone; sometimes it is one particular person whose absence triggers the anxiety or issues.
    • The dog gets increasingly distressed as you prepare to leave.
    • The dog is constantly following you and demanding your attention when you are home.

    Ok, what can I do then?

    • Desensitization to your arrivals and departures.
    Great sites for these are:
    The HSUS http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/ou...n_anxiety.html
    Wagntrain.com http://www.wagntrain.com/SeparationAnx.htm
    The KEY to desensitization to work is to NEVER be gone more then your dog can take. If your dog isn’t only good for 1min before they freak out, you should only be gone for 59seconds.
    • Increase the amount of exercise you give your dog before you leave. A tired dog is less likely to have the strength to destroy crates, and is more likely to sleep while you are gone. This means you may have to get up an hour earlier then normal to take your dog for a LONG walk. Throw in training commands while out with your dog. Mentally working your dog is just as important as physically working your dog.
    • Try to leave a Kong (http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...ductId=2750604) Frozen with some goodies inside of it like Peanut Butter! (http://dogs.thefuntimesguide.com/200..._chew_toys.php) Giving him something to do while you’re gone, if he is food motivated enough, will take his mind off of your absence.
    • If the above hasn’t worked, try adding natural relaxing herbs or supplements to your dog’s life. Results differ from dog to dog. What works for one dog won’t work for the next. These are to be used WITH desensitizing.
    1. Rescue Remedy (http://www.rescueremedy.com/) adding some of this to your dog’s water dish every time you refill the dish. For a dog that is 50lbs+ I would add a full eyedropper full. For smaller dogs add less. This is all natural, so as long as you don’t go overboard, it’s pretty safe.
    2. Valerian Root (http://www.anxiety-and-depression-so...s/valerian.php)
    3. Add a D.A.P. to your dogs crate room (http://www.petsmart.com/product/inde...ductId=2755194)
    4. Melatonin (http://www.melatonin.com/melatonin-animals.php), an over-the-counter hormone. Some have reported positive results when managing SA and other anxieties by using Melatonin. Contact your vet for dosage details, but a medium-sized dog 30-60 usually gets about 3mg, with less for smaller dogs and more for larger dogs.
    • Contact a local Behaviorist (http://www.iaabc.org/) (http://www.apdt.com/). They cost a lot, but can help you in more ways then you can dream. Anxiety should NEVER be punished, so when choosing a trainer, the more positive the training is the better.
    • Return to the Vet for “stronger” Meds like Clomipramine or Fluoxetine (Prozac). Also to be used as an aid during desensitization.

    Final Thoughts
    Sadly, SA is NOT curable and anyone that says that it is is lying. SA is only manageable. SA is something that may take a year or more or even less to get under control and it is likely to get worse before it gets better. Every dog is different and needs different things. Some dogs just need time to adjust, some never adjust. The most important thing I can tell a person dealing with SA is DO NOT PUNISH THE DOG WHEN YOU RETURN TO DESTRUCTION no matter how mad you are. Dogs do not do things out of spite. Spite is a human emotion, not a dog emotion. Dealing with SA is a long and difficult task, and I wish you the best of luck.

    Other Helpful Links

    https://www.dogforums.com/3-dog-train...life-free.html

    • Crate Training: http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/ou..._training.html


    A special THANKS to MissMutt for helping with this!
    Last edited by Darkmoon; 09-17-2009 at 11:26 PM.

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    Senior Member GottaLuvMutts's Avatar
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    Wow, thanks for posting this! I see some stuff in the first list that looks like Kit, but most of the stuff in the second list doesn't apply.

    I just want to add one thing:
    SA can occur in new places. Kit spends 8 hours/day in her crate at home, but a few weeks ago I made the mistake of crating her away from home. She had a major panic attack, despite the fact that it was her own crate, her own pad, she had a kong, and she was only in there for 30 mins. I came back to a frantic dog who had been chewing the wires of the crate and had managed to scoot the plastic tray out of the bottom. She also hadn't touched the kong, which is unheard of for her. When I first got her she wasn't a huge fan of the crate, but I never saw anything even close to what I saw with this panic attack.

    Here's what I think I did wrong:
    1. I crated her within 30 minutes of arriving at our destination. She had explored a bit, but mostly outside. She hadn't done much exploring of the room that she was crated in. I think this caused anxiousness.
    2. She had been riding in a car all morning and hadn't had much exercise.
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    Senior Member Independent George's Avatar
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    Maybe this should be stickied?
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    Senior Member Laurelin's Avatar
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    Quote Originally Posted by Independent George View Post
    Maybe this should be stickied?
    I agree. As someone that has a dog with SA it's a good list to have around.
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    Senior Member MissMutt's Avatar
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    Quote Originally Posted by Darkmoon View Post
    A special THANKS to MissMutt for helping with this!
    My pleasure DM. What a great idea you had. I don't even deserve a thanks.. YOU were the brains of the operation, YOU are the expert, I just supplied a thought or two

    But yes, I think this should be sticked. There are always a lot of new members about SA so it's good if all of the basic stuff is put into one thread so it can be linked to or whatever.
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    Senior Member Foyerhawk's Avatar
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    It has absolute genetic tendencies. There are entire lines of Whippets I would avoid because of severe crate anxiety AND/OR separation anxiety.

    Also, it definitely happens in new places. My senior dog is absolutely fine at home, but I could never leave him somewhere else, and every time I move, I have to deal with it for a few months.
    Ask me about Greyhound adoption!

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    Senior Member Shaina's Avatar
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    However do keep in mind, as Darkmoon said, that you really do need a professional opinion. For instance, Webster's "SA Symptoms" a year ago:

    Yes• The behavior occurs exclusively or primarily when he's left alone.
    Yes• He follows you from room to room whenever you're home.
    Yes• He displays effusive, frantic greeting behaviors.
    Yes• The behavior always occurs when he's left alone, whether for a short or long period of time.
    Yes• He reacts with excitement, depression, or anxiety to your preparations to leave the house.
    Yes• He dislikes spending time outdoors by himself.
    Yes (underclothing)• The dog chews on a variety of things, but chewing is often focused on items that smell most like you (or a particular person in your house) such as recently discarded clothes, including underwear or socks, or favorite chairs; and /or escape routes (doors or windows). The dog only chews these items when you're gone.
    Yes (sleeping on laundry?)• The dog tries to stay close to the things that smell most of you (chewed stuff will still be warm when you get home)
    Yes• The dog pees or poops inappropriately, sometimes in many locations.
    Yes...hours• The dog barks continuously during the day, perhaps after a build-up of whining. The barking is not on-off-on-off.
    Yes• The dog always shows these behaviors when left alone, even for short periods (30 minutes or less).
    Yes• The dog is wild to greet you, and is still stressed, anxious and clingy when you first arrive home. The dog does not appear "guilty" over destroyed items.
    Yes• Destruction begins soon after you leave; or possibly again shortly before you come home.
    Yes• The dog cannot be isolated from you at any time, even in a different room with the door closed.
    Yes• The dog sleeps with you. (This does not mean that all dogs who sleep with their owners will get separation anxiety. It does mean that dogs that survive being apart from you at night can survive it during the day, too).
    Yes...sometimes• Sometimes, the dog can be left alone in a car (for any length of time) or other unusual location, without showing anxiety or destructiveness. Sometimes the dog can be left with anyone; sometimes it is one particular person whose absence triggers the anxiety or issues.
    Yes• The dog gets increasingly distressed as you prepare to leave.
    Yes• The dog is constantly following you and demanding your attention when you are home.


    So yeah, every single one of those things, to varying extremes. However, I would not have diagnosed him with true SA. Turns out he had severe issues with crates which gave a "false positive" to many of those symptoms (which we have worked through) as well as an overall lack of confidence, probably due to an abrupt change in life compounded by abandonment. These could have manifested into true SA but I would have categorized them as behavior issues which could have become SA had they not been headed off early.

    For the record, I do realize I'm being hypocritical by saying don't self-diagnose SA then turning around and self-diagnosing "not SA". lol

    Just my thoughts...
    ~ Shai Crew ~
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    I officially love you this post is exactly what I was looking for and more, thanks so much for posting this
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    Senior Member railNtrailcowgrl's Avatar
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    Re: Separation Anxiety The What's, Why's and How's

    Wonderful post DM! I agree with Lauralin, this should be stickied. Even though Pebs is on her thyroid meds and is 'in remision' as I call it, this post would be great to be able to look back on from time to time, especially when she has a 'flair-up'.

    All my dogs have been scamps and thieves and troublemakers and I've adored them all. ~Helen Hayes
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