Pets with Problems

Caring for Dogs With Separation Anxiety

Much like children, caring for any dog throughout their life with you can be a challenge. Puppies require around the clock attention and training to ensure their future behaviour is well adjusted in your home, with the family and the outside world. As they grow into adult dogs, their energy levels are often times off the charts and they require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, not only to ensure they stay healthy both physically and mentally, but also to ensure a little peace and calmness at home. As our dogs age, medicines and other health issues require vet trips and adjusted schedules. It’s pretty clear that raising a dog is hard work, and it can be difficult to do without outside support. Now, imagine all the “normal” situations you have to cope with when raising a dog, and then layer on the complexity that separation anxiety brings. For an owner who has a dog with separation anxiety, it can be close to impossible to manage without support

Separation Anxiety is a Challenging Condition

For those of you that have had or currently have a dog with separation anxiety, you know the extra challenges this serious condition can bring. First, there is the emotional distress you and your dog go through every time you leave your home. The guilt you feel when you see your dog start to become anxious and then panic as you walk out of the house can be overwhelming. When you return home this guilt may be turn to anger as you see the damage your panicked dog may have done in your absence or find a note from your neighbour complaining that your dog has not stopped howling.

Unfortunately, the challenges do not end there. Because your dog is disruptive in your absence and does not stop barking and howling, your neighbors may report you to the council. If you’re renting, you may have to deal with landlords threatening to evict you. You may feel as if people think you neglect your dog, when in fact your heart is breaking for them every single day. And of course, there is the endless “advice” friends and family offer to try and help you with a situation they know nothing about – especially when they tell you to just let the dog get on with it or even worse, advise you to rehome your best friend.

Compassion Costs

As if that were not enough, there are additional costs involved when you have a dog with separation anxiety. Possible destruction and replacing furniture, soiled carpets, vet visits, costs for medicine and other “remedies”, as well as paying for pet sitters to enable you to have some sort of life without your dog at your heels all the time. Even worse is the fact that you have had to put your life on hold because your dog cannot be left alone. It’s an understatement to say that owners who are truly dedicated to helping their dog overcome separation anxiety are some of the most compassionate and generous people around. They truly have big hearts, are loving owners and will go to the ends of the earth to help their beloved pet.

As you might have guessed by now, helping a dog overcome separation anxiety is not an easy task. It takes an enormous amount of patience, dedication, and support from others to reach the end of your journey. It really does take a village.

Separation Anxiety

Suspending Absences

One of the biggest struggles owners face is making the commitment to not leave their dog alone for longer than the dog can happily cope with during the training process. This is such a critical factor in working to resolve separation anxiety because every time your dog is left alone, he becomes more frightened of being alone. Separation anxiety usually gets worse over time, not better and no programme will work effectively if the dog is being left, no matter how occasionally – all that happens is that you take two steps forward and three steps back. Think about it this way – you have a friend who has a terrible phobia about spiders but has been to counselling and can now look at a spider from 10 feet away without having a panic attack. Fantastic you say, time to celebrate you say and then you take them by the hand and shut them in a room full of spiders!!!!!! You can see that this will not help and the same applies to a dog who is terrified of being alone. This is where the need for support comes in.

Owners need friends, family, and others in the community dedicated to the same goal as the owners – compassionate care for a dog who is struggling. This group of people will be critical to ensuring you maintain a life and some sanity during the training process, which in turn will help increase the chances of success for your dog as well as support you through the process. You have to work, run errands, and sometimes just have a break. These are the times you need a support system you can trust.

Expand Your Support System

In addition to friends and family you can add others who are willing to help. Local pet sitters, dog walkers, doggy day care, and sites like Borrow my Doggy are all available. Now, more than ever, your employer may be a large part of this support system by offering the ability to work remotely or even allowing you to bring your dog to work. If you are or have the ability to work remotely, this is a HUGE help and the perfect time to begin the training. In essence, my advice is to talk to everyone you meet on a walk – you would be surprised at how many people will come forward to help. Work out reciprocal arrangements where you can look after their dog sometimes. Ask at your local vet if they know of anyone who may be in the same position as you are. Put up posts on your Facebook page asking for help and join all the dog owners and walkers Facebook pages in your area. Put up a poster in your building if you live in a block of flats or at your local church or community centre. If there is a local college close by see if any students would like to dog sit and earn a few pennies. Think out of the box!!!! It may sound daunting and it does take some forward planning but every single client I have worked with has found a solution because without putting this into place no separation programme will succeed.

A Contract With Your Dog

Just remember, as an owner of a dog with separation anxiety, once you begin your training you are signing a contract with your dog that you will not leave them alone. You need the support system in place but of course these kind people must also be aware that when they are looking after your dog they must never leave them alone – not even for a few minutes.

If you know someone who has a dog with separation anxiety, offer to be a part of their support system and ask them to be part of yours. Separation anxiety is considered to be the most common behaviour disorder and roughly 80% of the dogs in the UK are thought to suffer from this debilitating condition in one form or another. When we all work together as loving dog owners, we have a real chance of making an impact on the lives of countless dogs everywhere.

Contact Me For Help

If you are struggling, I cannot urge you enough to contact me for help. The expertise I can offer is priceless when helping your dog overcome his anxiety and knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel – your dog CAN be happy at home alone. As a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, one of my greatest joys is to see the small marks of improvement in a dog that will eventually lead to them being able to stay home alone calmly. Another joy for me is working with these amazing owners – being able to work side by side with them to help their dog – it’s a privilege to be part of their lives as we work together to help their dog and help them understand they are not alone.

Please, contact me with any questions you have.  

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