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Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety
is diagnosed in around 10% of the behavior cases referred to Canines of America by veterinarians in the New York City area. When left alone, most dogs find a familiar spot and go to sleep. However, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will become extremely anxious. Not understanding where you or your family has gone or if you will ever return, the dog exhibits behavior which may include chewing, barking, salivating, urinating, defecating, vomiting or escape behavior, such as chewing through walls, scratching through doors, busting out of cages or digging under fences if left outdoors. In some cases, the dog simply gets sick, perhaps due to some form of depression.

Probable Causes

Factors at the root of this disorder include species specific predispositions, genetics, early learning and owner behavior. Your dog is a social, pack animal who relies on the others for individual protection by safety in numbers. Dogs that lack confidence, due to under socialization, lack of understanding of what is expected (obedience training) or because of mistreatment in the past (abandonment, unusually long confinement and alike) are more likely to exhibit behaviors related to separation anxiety.


Treatment for separation anxiety varies from dog to dog. Extreme cases should be referred to a qualified animal behavior consultant or board certified veterinary behaviorist. However, there are things you can do to help a dog with separation anxiety and things you should avoid doing.

Plan Your Exit When it is time to leave, just leave. Do not say "Good bye" to your dog with hugs and kisses. In fact, ignore your dog for five minutes before you go. Paying too much attention will make your dog feel more insecure when the attention is abruptly withdrawn.

Leave a Distraction Prepare a "Bye-Bye" bone. Purchase a sterilized; hollow bone from the pet store. Fill it with goodies such as dried liver pet treats, beef jerky, peanut butter, cheese or other things your dog really likes. Keep it hidden and take it out when you leave each day. Place it near your dog just before you close the door. When you arrive home, poke the goodies left in the bone out so your dog gets them. Then put the bone away. The bone only comes out when you leave. We are attempting to distract your dog with something that he will find interesting enough to concentrate on your leaving. Hopefully, he will appreciate the bone so much that he will look forward to it coming out in place of getting upset with your leaving.

Confine Your Dog When You Are Away Confining your dog during your times of absence has two positive results. First, a dog who is confined to a carrier or crate cannot do damage to your home. Secondly, a crate, when properly introduced, will act as a safe, comfortable den where the dog can relax. Limiting his movement also acts as an anxiety reducer for most dogs.

Leave the Radio On Tune a radio to a talk station, put it on in a room you are often in, the bedroom is usually a good choice, and close the door. The dog will hear the human voices from your room and may not feel so alone. I have had some clients tape record their own voices and play the recording in place of the radio program. Dogs know the sound of your voice all too well. And remember, since the dog is most anxious just after you leave, a one hour recording will most probably do.

Practice This Training Routine With most dogs, the hardest time for them is immediately after you leave. Their anxious (and sometimes destructive) behavior occurs within the first hour after they are left alone. It will be your job to reshape your dog's behavior through reinforcement training. Leave your dog out of his crate, put your coat on, walk to the door and leave. Come back in immediately. Greet your dog calmly. Tell him to sit. When he does, reinforce this behavior with a food treat he enjoys. Wait a few minutes and then repeat the exercise, this time remaining outside a few seconds longer. Continue practicing leaving and returning over the next few weeks, always remembering to return, greet your dog calmly and command him to sit before offering a treat.

Establish Your Leadership When a dog has a strong leader, it has a calming effect on him. He feels safe and taken care of. In the absence of a strong leader, your dog feels obligated to assume that position in the social hierarchy of the family pack. Since a leader must control all that goes on, his inability to control your leaving causes him stress and anxiety. I had a case with a male Lhasa Apso who would bite at an owner's leg each morning when she attempted to leave for work. He would exhibit dominant behavior to try to stop his owner from leaving which would then cause him stress which he wished to avoid. Obedience training is the best organized method of establishing yourself as a strong leader.

Exercise Your Dog A dog who is lacking exercise is more likely to have stress and tension. Tiring a dog out with a long walk, run or with play goes a long way in reducing stress.

Once again, if the anxiety persists, consult a qualified animal behaviorist. Check his credentials and call some veterinary and customer references. Checking with your local Better Business Bureau is also a good idea. In some cases, a behaviorist will recommend a behavior modification program coupled with a pharmaceutical such as Prozac to help the therapy program along. This would be done together with your veterinarian.


Acral Lick Dermatitis

Also known as lick granuloma, a very frustrating disorder in which dogs continue to lick at their limbs, abrading the skin and creating ulcers and raw, weeping areas. The cause is still a matter of debate. It was once thought to be due to boredom. More contemporary views suggest a disorder of nerves or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Biopsies should be done to confirm a diagnosis since many other conditions can appear similarly. Treatment for Acral Lick Dermatitis is frustrating. Some respond to topical corticosteroids, some to antidepressant drugs, some to narcotics and others to drugs that inhibit the effect of narcotics. Each case should be assesse individually.

Mode of Inheritance


Common Breeds Affected

Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd Dog, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever


Do not breed affected animals, their siblings or their parents. No screening tests currently available for carriers.


Car Anxiety

My German Shepherd loves the car. He loves to look out the window and will sometimes stick his head up front to let me scratch his neck. He loves to go for a ride. My Dobermans, however, hate the car. They go into immediate down-stays and will not move until the engine is off. They simply do not care for the motion of the car. Each dog is different. But a lot has to do with early learning.

If you have a puppy, take him for car rides whenever possible. be sure he is secured with a car harness or placed in the back seat. Make it a pleasant experience (no drag racing). And talk to him from time to time telling him he is good. If you have a passenger, have that person pet the puppy to comfort him. Always refrain from feeding or watering the puppy several hours before traveling. You'll be glad you did.

An older dog with a car phobia can sometimes be cured with behavior modification exercises. Begin by feeding the dog near the car. Over the course of several days, move the dish closer to the car until you are finally feeding the dog in the back seat with the door open, motor off. Next close the door. The next step is to go back outside and feed the dog near the car with the motor running. repeat the same procedure until the dog can eat in the car with the motor running. You can now try short drives while your passenger offers food treats and praises and pets your dog. We are counter conditioning the dog through reinforcement training. Do not rush this procedure. If the dog is very afraid of car travel, these exercises can take weeks or even months. Be patient.

Information provided by Canines.com at http://www.canines.com

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