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Sat. by appointment only
31310 Woodhaven Trail
Cannon Falls, MN 55009
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651-222-0885 Twin Cities
anxiety is a distressing behavior problem with serious
consequences for owners as well as their dog. In the United
States 14% of family dog’s exhibit exaggerated signs of
anxiety when they can not have access to their family
members. It is more common in mixed breeds that have been
adopted from humane societies or pet adoption organizations.
The underlying issue involves hyper attachment to one or
more family members and increases with the amount of time
owners spend with them. When the owner is home, the dog
constantly keeps the owner within eye sight by following
them from room to room. They are very needy and expect
constant physical contact. Environmental stress such as (a
move to a new home, a traumatic event, or altered social
relationship) may also trigger the anxiety. Older dogs are
often affected because of the physiology of their aging
brain, cognitive dysfunction, or medical issues.
Some owners think the destructive behavior is purposefully
directed towards them because their dog is retaliating for
being left alone or confined. This behavior is not motivated
by spite or revenge but by anxiety. Punishment increases
their stress and escalates the problem. Dogs chew up and
damage their owner’s furniture and personal items because
their scent is on the items. Having contact with the items
reminds the dog of their absent owner, which causes anxiety
and triggers destructive displacement behaviors.
The treatment for separation anxiety involves building the
dogs self esteem and independence, by adjusting their
relationship with their owner. It becomes a vicious cycle,
because as the anxiety increases the dog seeks more
attention and reassurance from their owner. The more
attention the owner provides, the worse the anxiety gets. In
severe cases, we recommend a medical work up which includes;
a thorough physical exam, chemistry panel, and CBC. A fecal
exam, urinalysis, or thyroid evaluation may aid in the
diagnosis as well. If needed, medication may be prescribed.
As the owner prepares to leave (picking up the car keys,
briefcase, purse or coat) the dog starts to exhibit:
- Signs of anxiety
(increased activity, restlessness, pacing, high pitched
whining, barking or howling)
- Signs of depression
(withdraws, reluctance to move, sad facial expression,
or refuses treats)
- Signs of
physiological changes (panting, hyper salivation, or
Attention Seeking Behaviors
- Without realizing it,
many owners pay more attention to their dogs when they
- Dogs who do not
receive enough attention and positive reinforcement for
appropriate behaviors, may engage in destructive
behavior when their owners are present to attract
attention. Positive reinforcement of a negative behavior
is not wise.
- From the dog’s
perspective: Negative attention such as scolding is
better than no attention.
- Their destructive
behavior may be directed towards (windows, doorways,
items or personal possessions that have the owners
- Dog’s may exhibit
(chewing, scratching, house soiling, barking, hyper
salivation, vomiting, self mutilation, withdrawal,
anorexia, depression or lethargy)
- Make sure your dog
receives positive attention every day (obedience
training, quickly responding to commands, aerobic
exercise, play training and walks).
- Provide positive
reinforcement for the quiet behaviors (laying quietly,
playing quietly with dog toys, giving eye contact-“watch
- Use the concept
“Nothing in Life is Free” for your dog. Teach them, if
they immediately respond to your commands ---positive
reinforcement will follow in the form of verbal praise,
physical reward and edible treats. When handled in a
positive manner, they learn they do not have to
misbehave to get your attention.
- Organize your house
and remove the “off limit” items that he/she prefers to
damage or chew on.
- Shut the doors or use
gates to protect certain areas of the house.
- When your dog looks
at “off limit” items – give the command “not yours” or
“leave it”. If they pick it up - give the command “give”
and practice exchanging the item with a dog toy or dog
- Do not provide
comfort for your dog when they misbehave. Instead give
them a job such as responding to obedience commands or
play training to tire them out.
- Do not allow the dog
to get attention on demand. It should be given on the
owner’s terms not the dog’s demands.
- The dog should remain
calm for all owner departures.
- Achieve this by
desensitizing your dog. Use repetitive actions of
picking up the keys, putting on your coat, opening and
closing the doors.
- Also use cues that
are associated with daily calmness such as (treats,
leave the radio or TV on)
- Practice short mock
- The length of
departure time should gradually be increased.
- When you are unable
to be with your dog, crate them if they perceive their
crate as a safe place.
- Homecoming should
remain calm (no excitement).
Punishment is Improper Correction
- Punishment is rarely
effective in resolving destructive behavior issues. In
fact, it makes it worse.
- If you do not catch
your dog in the act, it is too late to correct or punish
them. Delayed punishment provokes other undesirable
behaviors as well.
- From your
perspective, you may think they look “guilty” because
they cower, run away or hide.
- From your dog’s
perspective, they exhibit submissive posture because
they feel threatened by your angry tone of voice, angry
facial expression or body posture. They only know their
owner is angry!
We understand how stressful separation anxiety is
for owners as well as your dogs.
Call today, fill out the
Behavior History Form and return it to CVS.