SEPERATION ANXIETY

If you think your dog has separation anxiety please seek the help of a dog behaviorist, dog behavior specialist, dog psychologist. Your dog is suffering more than you are over the loss of your couch and shoes. This is a very serious disorder. I can help you.Contact me for more information

Your dog is not spiteful – if you dog knew  he did something wrong and you come home and punish him, then why doesn’t he stop? If he is out to get you that is a conscious decision to plan getting even with you dogs don’t do that. If your dog can see you are upset why doesn’t he stop?

Often with a long standing problem people have unfortunately been told that nothing that can be done. Just crate the dog. This is not true. Separation anxiety is very treatable and very controllable.

DEFINITION: 1. Distress response when separated from person or persons the dog is most attached to.

2. A distress response because something bad has happened to the dog when home alone. Or in the past something bad has happened when the dog was alone perhaps in a previous home or shelter or pet shop. These dogs will often have thunderstorm or noise phobia also. (Pacing, panting drooling, jumping on owners, trying to hide, trying to get under owner, trying to get outside, whining)

SYMPTOMS

If your dog has acute onset of separation anxiety or general anxiety there cold be a medical component such as pain, or a dental problem.

These are the top clinical presentations of separation anxiety there may be other symptoms present.

Follow the owners around

Vocalization – howling, whining, crying depressed, may knock things down may be distracted for a minute will go right back to howling

Destruction – at doors, windows and owners possessions or items strong with the owners scent.

Elimination– rarely or never spending time one their own outside. Dogs who don’t mind being outside probably don’t have separation anxiety. When the owner is gone the dog may eliminate near doors or windows, or anywhere.

Departure cue anxiety – Distress and autonomic signs – depression, anorexia during departure, pacing, whining

GI signs – Vomiting diarrhea

Hyper salivation – a lot of drool on the floor or in the kennel

Increased motor activity – pacing, lying down and getting up repeatedly

Excessive grooming

Restlessness

Shaking, shivering,

Aggression – occasionally dogs are aggressive at the owners departure these dog have 2 issues that need to be addressed behaviorally.

You will see these signs when the attachment figure is leaving, or right after they leave.

These symptoms may be cyclical every 25-45 minutes. As soon as the dog settles down the symptoms will start again.

Noise phobias

Storm phobias

 

Clinical signs

These symptoms my be present for other behavioral causes. If these symptoms occur both when owner or people the dog has bonded to are present and absent it is not separation anxiety.

Other possibilities for these symptoms

Elimination – can’t hold it that long. A G.I. medical problem.

Destruction – not enough exercise, young dogs, outside stimulation – sees something outside that gets him excited. Barrier frustration – can’t handle being crated or gated remove the crate or gate and dog is ok. The dog is bored, not enough to do.

Vocalization – territorial barker may be barking at things outside, stress bark sounds very different then other forms of barking.

 

PREDISPOSING FACTORS.

Genetics of individual and as a whole.

Breeding dogs to be increasingly affectionate, dependent, infantile etc. qualities are more likely they are to develop attachment disorders..

Dog that were ill as puppies higher risk for separation anxiety.

Depressive disorders can lead to separation anxiety esp. in senior pets.

 

RISK FACTORS

Punishment based- disciplined dominance type training increases behavior problems (anxieties etc.) and lowers scores in obedience.

Source of pet – most shelter dogs have higher amount of separation anxiety because they had it when they were relinquished.

When a dog looses his attachment figure he will start to develop insecurity.

A dog that lost his attachment figure or never had one.

Previously abandoned puppies are more anxious and less secure than puppies who have been with owner from puppy-hood.

Anxious mothers increase risk

Symptoms may worsen if another dog in the home passes away or is re-homed. A new dog will not help.

Excessive social interaction post adoption at 3 mo. of age.

LOWERING RISKS

Vaccines studies – prior to 8-9 weeks seem to lower risk.

Pheromones used for 4-7 days when puppy comes into new home.

Number one protective factor is to have another dog in home when you adopt a puppy.

Positive reinforcement, consistency, obedience training, and agility are correlated with fewer behavior problems, lower stress & anxiety and higher obedience scores.

Predictability in daily routine

There is no breed or sex correlation for separation anxiety.

Acquiring a second pet is not protective against separation anxiety

 

PUPPIES WITH SEPERATION ANXIETY

The reason that puppies suffer from separation anxiety is because they have what is referred to as detachment disorder. The did not detach well from mom. Or the new owner. Puppy’s develop anxiety during what is referred to as the fear period or sensitive period 3-12wks. This is also the social influence development period. The time when puppies are getting used to new environments – environmental habituation. Fears will immerge at 6-8 wks. If they are overly fearful at 7-8 wks the problem could be either social or genetic. Some breeds are more social past 12 weeks. When puppies are around 6-8 months may become more aggressive or fearful with things they seemed ok with previously. This is because they weren’t really adapted to those things and were always fearful of them but weren’t bold enough to show you that they were afraid. Socialization must continue through adult hood to prevent risk regression with fears.

 

How does separation anxiety or stress develop? If you separate a puppy from his mom at around 3 week he will vocalize for a short while, this is normal. This vocalization at separation from mom peaks at 6-7 weeks and then begins to decline at 12 weeks.

Puppies that are first separated from mom at 9-12 weeks are more likely to develop separation anxiety.

 

ACQUIRED SEPARATION ANXIETY – The dogs routine is destroyed when the dog is suddenly separated from owner or people he has bonded with; for example, a teacher goes back to work, the owner hand an illness and got better etc…

Anxiety may be due to the sudden change – the dogs day is unpredictable – when dog learns this new routine he should be ok.

 

Dogs who have other anxiety disorders. Dogs with noise/storm phobias (usually develop 3-5 yrs) this is also when separation anxiety will develop along with these. Then dog constantly seeks attention when he is experiencing phobias and fears. This progresses to when owners leaves, the dog now has separation anxiety.

SYMPTOMS

Excessive interaction When owners come home from work.

 

PREVENTION. To prevent separation anxiety both in puppy hood and adulthood, the breeder should start brief separations from the mom. Even though it looks worse at 3 weeks puppies who are separated regularly from mom started at 3 weeks are much less likely to develop separation anxiety. Take mom out for a short walk, or play in the yard, even a short car ride. A nice massage in another room is also a good option. The separation session should begin at 3 weeks for about 10 minutes, or until the puppies stop vocalizing then return mom. Work up the time gradually until at 12 week they can be with out mom for several hours.

New puppy owners should spend time away from the puppy. Separation anxiety develops with pups that have spent weeks with their new owners. Pay attention to your puppy but not constantly. Go ahead and take your everywhere, spend lots of time with, exposing to everything, but if you don’t spend time away from him he will be less able to handle social separation. You should gradually expose the puppy to separation.

So expose puppy to socialization for a few hours, then have him take his nap time away from owner. Simply walk away from the puppy and don’t react when he cries.

A predictable daily routine is important. Excessive kenneling will also contribute to separation anxiety and other behavior problems. I recommend gating as opposed to kenneling. Kenneling should only be used during the night to teach the puppy to hold his bladder. (remember puppies can only hold it for about the same number of hours as they are old. For a 3 mo. old pup, 2-3 hours sleeping and living with their urine and feces is also stressful)

TREATMENT FOR SEPARATION ANXIETY

You will need the help of a Dog Behavior Specialist to treat your dogs separation anxiety. It is essential that the treatment plan be followed closely and monitored by a dog behavior specialist so that changes can be made as necessary.

Evidence based clinical behavior modification shows that behavior modification and medication together will bring the most successful outcome for modifying separation anxiety and some other fears and phobias.

DRUG THERAPY fluxoapine (reconcile) or clomipramine (clomicalm). Sometimes a benzodiazepine has to be added when the dog panics acutely. This is so owners can leave initially. Drug therapy should be for at least 6 weeks then a decrease of 25% a week to look for return of behaviors.

 

Behavior Modification Plan:

Your behavior specialist should create a behavior modification plan that is designed for your dog and the people he lives with. There are certain protocols that must be followed in order for you to be successful. The order of these protocols may need to be changed or adjusted or the techniques and exercises may need to be changed or adjusted depending on the dog, the home environment and the people living with the dog and the progress.

 

Some things that must be achieved during behavior modification are: (this is not a complete list)

Change the way the dog perceives being home alone

Change the way the owner feels about the dog

Make dog independent

Create safe place for dog to relax

Diminish attention seeking

Command response relationship

Uncouple cues

Teach dog to settle

Counter condition the dog

Associate a new signal

Preserve the human/dog bond

Clarify communication between dog & owner

Increase dogs self confidence

Increase dogs trust in owner.

Diet change to help increase serotonin and decrease other factors.

 

WHY TREATMENT FAILS

Only drug therapy was used

Only behavior modification was used

Owners used confinement alone.

Owners failed to keep contact and follow ups with behavior specialist.

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND STATISTICS

Primary: The dog grows up to adult hood separation anxiety persists they have dysfunctional attachment.

In chronic stress states we know that dogs higher prolactin level.

In acute stress states we know that dogs have a lower prolactin level.

A dog in chronic stress is a different animal.

SEPERATION ANXIETY STATISTICS

29-50% of senior dogs have separation anxiety

14-35% of dogs have separation anxiety (depending on which study you read)

41% Are not treated

22% Are treated with behavior modification and drugs

10% Are treated with drugs alone

17% Are treated with behavior modification alone

10% Are referred for help

Separation Anxiety effects the dog/human bond, the number of dog relinquished to shelter or euthanized due to destructive behavior, owner discouragement, owners banishing pets to parts of house or locking them up. The welfare of dogs with separation anxiety is at great risk.

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