Dogs

Dogs with Separation Anxiety, Ask Victoria Stilwell

posted: 05/15/12
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"I have a four-year-old Chocolate lab. He's a great dog, except for the fact that he hates to be left alone. I usually keep him in the office with music playing and windows open when I leave the house. The room contains his crate and all of his toys. He barks the ENTIRE time I am gone. I have gotten numerous complaints from neighbors. One even called the police! I purchased an ultrasonic device that is supposed to sound upon detecting a bark. However, that did not work. My dog just got used to it and continued to bark. I returned it. I really do not want to resort to buying a shock collar. PLEASE HELP!" — anna03

The behaviors you describe are all classic signs of separation anxiety.  Some people might advise you to go get another dog.  Sometimes this does work, but sometimes it doesn't.  If the dog is completely dedicated to the owner, then it won't matter if you have another dog.  Separation anxiety is very difficult to deal with. 

You can try desensitizing your dog by practicing triggers of leaving like putting on make-up, putting on your coat, walk out the door and wait 10 seconds before entering again. Gradually build-up over time until your dog understands that you aren't leaving him forever. Also be sure to leave delicious treats like a stuffed Kong toy and offer plenty of exercise and attention when you are home. 

If it's gotten so bad that the police are being called, you might want to consider a doggy day care situation where people are either coming in to your home throughout the day to be with the dog and walk the dog or take your dog to a doggie day care facility where he can be with other people and dogs while you are gone. 

Some dogs that have separation anxiety need to be treated chemically - there are different types of medications to help dogs deal with stress and you should consider talking to your vet about options. 

As for shock collars or other devices, they might suppress reaction to behavior for a little bit, but they make the behavior worse because they don't treat the cause of the behavior.  If a dog is truly anxious these devices make a dog more anxious, so by using them you are not only making your dog feel a lot worse, you will be creating an even harder situation for you to deal with in the future.  Stay away from using any of these devices and contact a positive reinforcement trainer to help you. 

This is a very common but difficult behavior to treat and you will need professional advice.  You can find positive reinforcement trainers in your area by going to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website at: www.apdt.com  

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