Separation Anxiety is a serious condition that affects many canine companions. While some cases of Separation Anxiety are mild, others get quite severe.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation Anxiety is when a dog can’t handle being left alone. Usually, consisting of barking, howling, digging, chewing, defecating, and/or urination. In my case, it was all of this and more!
Living With Bennie.
A few weeks after bringing Bennie home, I noticed his cute “shadowing” behaviors were getting more intense. I couldn’t even go to the mailbox without him incessantly barking, digging, and chewing at the door!
He would also MacGuyver his way out of the crate if left alone. One time, getting stuck halfway out of the door! All this due to his unrelenting need to escape! Unfortunately, letting him be crate-free wasn’t an option…he was destructive and had the potential to injure himself!
Bennie also relieved himself excessively when I left. Keeping in mind, he had been potty trained for quite some time. This told me his accidents were anxiety-related. He, also, ignored any toys and treats that I had left for him. And, being the foodie I knew Bennie is, this was very unnatural for him.
Time to Call in the Experts!
At this point, I knew it was time to reach out to a professional. I had never experienced this with past pets. And, being honest, I was really worried about his quality of life.
The first step was an appointment with the vet. Though he appeared healthy, I wanted to rule out any medical reason for his behavior. Thankfully, he came back 100% physically healthy!
While speaking to the vet, we discussed training, and also, possible medication intervention. Along with that, his doctor put me in contact with a dog trainer who specialized in Separation Anxiety.
After a few sessions with the trainer, and implementing her advice, I was seeing improvements! Having a spare room in my home, I was able to convert it into a dog-proof space. I kicked the crate to the curb, made sure there was nothing he could injure himself on, incorporated some calming music and a lavender diffuser. And, we got to work on our new routine!
In the morning, when I get up, we go for a long walk and have a fun play session. Working to burn energy and give plenty of time for pottying!
I no longer feed him from a bowl! All his meals are delivered through food dispenser toys or puzzles. This helps burn his mental energy. The main goal is to get him as relaxed and tired as possible!
I work on counter-conditioning and desensitizing him to me leaving. Focusing on keeping him calm when he would normally show his disdain. And, rewarding him heavily for NOT reacting negatively!
With the management of his space, burning his physical and mental energy, and consistently rewarding him for being calm, life is a whole lot better! It has taken time and patience! But, we live a much happier life for it!