What are some tips on how to solve separation anxiety in dogs?
Original Question: Hi my dog is a 13-year-old Jack Russell Parson. She’s been very healthy up until about 1 month ago when she started shaking when we started to leave in the morning. She shakes really badly and then when we leave she goes through the house destroying everything in her path -- dropping items from shelves, windows breaking, picture frames, and she gets hurt by the sharp glass when she breaks it. Once we are home she is back to her normal self. She has never done these things before. I got her calming treats and spray but they just do not work for her but she enjoys its taste for sure. We tried to put her in a cage but I cannot do that anymore because she goes crazy after 30 – 60 minutes. Are there any remedies that could calm her down while we are away? Thank you for any advice. - Joanna
Separation anxiety, which is what this sounds like, can be a difficult thing to overcome but success can be achieved through diligence and determination in a large number of cases. It sounds like you have already taken a few steps in the right direction and some of that needs to be continued. A combination of modalities is needed to be most effective. The first thing to consider is “what has changed?” Have there been recent visitors, family problems, renovations; outdoor noise issues, all these can affect our pets.
What I mean by this is that different tools will be needed to address the issue. Crate training can be very successful when implemented properly. Short intervals in the crate is where you need to start and it needs to be made a comforting place. Meals can be fed in there and when you put her in the crate, a special treat or toy should be given (my favorite is a Kong with peanut butter). These short intervals can be done while you are home even or if you just go outside to take out the trash. Over the course of a few weeks, the time is gradually lengthened. If you are letting her out of the crate when she is going ballistic, it will only reinforce the behavior that “if I act up, I get out” (which is what she wants).
To further help, some medications might be needed and this is an area to be discussed with your veterinarian. These can range from non-prescription pheromones to prescription medications similar to Prozac. Medication for dog separation anxiety isn’t a bad thing in these cases and are typically only used as a bridge to get where you want, not necessarily a permanent solution.
Another aspect is changing your own behavior. Many people have a tendency to form a routine when leaving the house and this may include saying bye to the pets and how they get their keys, coats, and bags together. Leaving the house needs to be a non-event. Change up the order of doing things and make sure your dog has some distractions.
These are just some starting points. Your veterinarian can help guide you further and make changes as your dog progresses or responds to the program. I wish there was a simpler solution and wish you all the best.
Dr. Ryan Llera
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