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Pet Tips Library

Dog & Puppy Tips

Separation Anxiety

The shelter receives many calls related to a pet's unacceptable or disruptive behaviors. Separation anxiety is a common reaction of pets, especially dogs, when left alone for long periods of time. Owners are plagued by the disruptive behaviors that result from separation anxiety and will often want to surrender the pet to us.

Being alone is an unnatural condition for a dog. Boredom and loneliness could lead to destructive behavior. For those of you who own a dog that shows disruptive behavior when left alone, you can turn the behavior around with effort and understanding. It may be difficult to break ingrained behavioral patterns in both the dog and yourself, but it is possible.

For those of you who may be contemplating acquiring a dog who will be left alone on a regular basis, we ask that you consider two things:
1. What are your motives in adopting a dog?
2. Are you willing to put in the time and effort required to meet the dog's needs?
Honest answers to these questions may save you and the dog much grief and aggravation.

In itself, leaving your dog alone may not constitute inhumane treatment of the animal. It does, however, border on inhumane when the owner is not willing to minimize the stress experienced by the dog and share responsibility for the dog's misbehavior. Please feel free to contact the shelter if you have questions regarding animal behavior. We have an extensive file of literature available at no charge.

How to stop 'home alone' barking
On a day free of work commitments, go through your normal morning routine, but don't go far from the door once you've left home.
If your dog is quiet for a predetermined portion of time (10 to 30 seconds), enter your home and reward the dog with a treat. If the dog barks, set the timer back to zero.
A sharp rap on the door with a metal object after a bark may improve things. Don't shout though - most dogs prefer negative attention to no attention at all and may consider your yelling a reward.
Once you have your first success, re-enter the home, tell the dog "yes" or "good," reward him, and go about your business. Keep all comings and goings low key so he isn't excessively revved up each time.
Repeat the exercise numerous times, lengthening the time away with each success. If you have to restart the count more than a couple of times, you may be moving too far, too fast.
If the dog figures out you're on the other side of the door, increase your distance to replicate departure.
Let your neighbors know you are aware of the problem and are working on it.

Source: Information adapted from Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT

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