Tips for separation anxiety
I most often see this in small breeds and rescues, but it can certainly afflict any dog. It's heart breaking, pathetic and extremely frustrating for all. There are many layers of treatment to address this behavior, and owner dedication and patience is a must, but often the problem can be remedied.
Here are a few tips:
1) More exercise. There's a reason I put this first on the list. Pent up energy comes out one way or another, usually in a negative form. Get up early and walk your dog for 20-30 minutes. Exercise raises seratonin levels (the neurochemical in the brain that promotes a sense of calm) and can help reduce anxiety.
2) No excessive attention prior to departure or upon return. Keep "hellos and goodbyes" low -key.
Most behaviorists recommend ignoring the dog completely for 10-20 minutes when you leave and come home. I know this is difficult, but essential to get your stressed out buddy over this thing. The key here is that you don't acknowledge them until they are calm...If that's 3-4 minutes, than that's when you can say 'hello'---calmly!
3) Change your departure routine. Grab your coat and keys and then just go sit down. Walk out the door, then come back 10 seconds later, like nothing happened. Modify the sequence of events so your dog doesn't get a chance to even start the anxiety symptoms let alone get into a full-blown panic attack. This starts to change the mental habituation that accompanies the physical manifestations. Practice on the weekends as well when you have more time to dedicate to desensitizing your dog to your leaving.
4) Be careful not to reward insecurity or timidity. Act as though everything is fine. Does this sound familiar? "Mama loves you --Be a good boy-- it's OK!" Yep, we've all been there, but QUIT IT. It can actually become a cue or a switch to intensify the anxiety.
5) Weaken her dependency on family members when you are home. This doesn't mean you can't interact with her, just don't be so excessive and accessible with attention and affection. The key here is to get your pal calm and confident on their own, wether you're home or not. This again is difficult on family members. Think of it as 'tough'' love.
6) Natural remedies such as Rescue Remedy or a Dog Appeasing Pheromone Collar can calm anxious behavior and gently take the edge off.
7) For severe cases, Anti anxiety medications are often used, (talk to your vet about appropriate options) and in conjunction with the other behavior modification techniques, your dog could be more mentally and physically healthy and happy.