Monday, March 7, 2011

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Part 3
Behavior Modifications

This blog will focus on some behavior modifications for separation anxiety in dogs. Previous blogs described the disorder, possible causes, and how separation anxiety presents itself in dogs.

Behavior modification for separation anxiety:

It is recommended that owners should give their dog an acceptable item to chew, such as a long lasting food treat only when they go out. The goal is to have the dog associate this special treat with the owner's departure. Treats might include hollow bones stuffed with peanut butter or soft cheese, drilled out nylon bones or hollow rubber chew toys such as Kong toys similarly enhanced (place in the freezer before giving it to the dog to make it last longer). Give the bone to the dog about 15 minutes before preparing to depart. The chew toy should be used only as a reward to offset the anxiety triggered by the owner's departure.

Hiding a variety of these delectable food treats throughout the house may occupy the dog so that the owner's departure is less stressful.

In an effort to prevent destructive behavior, many owners confine their dog in a crate or behind a gate. For dogs that display "barrier frustration," the use of a crate in this way is counterproductive. Many dogs will physically injure themselves while attempting to escape such confinement. Careful efforts to desensitize and counter condition the dog to crate confinement before leaving her alone may be helpful in some cases. However, some dogs rebel against any form of restraint, including restricting barriers and, for them, crate training may never be a positive experience.

"Doggie Daycare" or hiring a pet sitter often is a better alternative for dogs that initially are resistant to treatment.

Independence training is one of the more important aspects of the program to eliminate separation anxiety in dogs. It involves teaching your dog to "stand on her own four feet" when you are present, with the express intention that her new found confidence will spill over into times when you are away. You need to make your dog more independent by reducing the bond between both of you to a more healthy level of involvement.

Decreasing the bond is the hardest thing for most owners to accept. Most people acquire dogs because they want a strong relationship with them. However, you have to accept that the anxiety your dog experiences in your absence is destructive.

The next blog will focus on the essential components of the independence training program for treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.

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