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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety is a condition, which can appear in dogs when they are in distress and exhibit behavioural problems when separated from their handlers.  Separation anxiety will typically become noticeable within five minutes of departure of the handler.  Separation anxiety occurs in situations where the dog is unable to manage being on its own.  Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety can become restless when their owner simply prepares to leave.  Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their owners’ departure or when their owners aren’t present.  Some might even try to prevent their owners from leaving.  When the owner returns home, the dog will show extreme excitement, almost as if they’ve not seen the owner in days.

In order to prevent separation anxiety, dogs need to feel happy, safe and comfortable when away from their owners.  It’s important to give them things to do while they are alone.  Examples include, providing them with toys, or toys stuffed with treats or a digging pit in the yard.  Often another companion dog can help alleviate boredom. Another way to prevent separation anxiety is to set aside scheduled time periods to give the dog undivided attention, play and exercise.  A happy, well-exercised dog will usually sleep contentedly during the day while the owner is away.  The owner should ensure that one of the scheduled play sessions occurs before they leave for the day.  The dog should be given a chance to settle down before being left alone.  The owner should also not make a big deal of the departure – they should just leave without any emotion or fussing.

Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation Anxiety

 Moderate or severe cases of separation anxiety require a more complex desensitization program. In these cases, it’s crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.  These treatments should also be done under the supervision/advisement of a trained professional. For help please call us on 03 9877 6522 or email [email protected]