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Ask the Trainer with Debbie DeSantis

Going to the Dogs Obedience TrainingDebbie DeSantis
TopDogTraining.org

Q: Now that the kids are back in school and we’re not home as often, our Cocker Spaniel, Daisy, seems to be suffering from separation anxiety. She’s normally calm and relatively quiet, but she’s been barking when we leave the house in the morning and, as our neighbors report, howling while we’re away. Is there anything we can do to ease this behavior?

A: Separation anxiety can occur in some dogs when the guardians’ schedules change. They fear that their people won’t return. However, there are things that you can do to help your dog. Make sure that Daisy has a sufficient amount of exercise before you leave. A tired dog is less likely to be anxious. It’s also important to not give Daisy a lot of attention for about 30 minutes or more before you leave. Don’t make a fuss upon your departure or arrival either, or the difference in attention between your leaving and returning can cause separation anxiety.

Dogs that must be with us all the time are more likely to develop separation anxiety. If we constantly give them attention, they come to expect that and can become very insecure without it. It’s what I call the “Velcro dog syndrome.” If your dog tries to always follow you around, try to give her something constructive to do away from you, such as chewing on or playing with a safe toy.

Having a television or radio play while you’re gone can help some dogs. Safe activity toys, such as those made by Kong, stuffed with some peanut butter can keep her busy. There are also treat-dispensing toys in which you can place treats or kibble dog food to occupy her. These can also help Daisy have a positive association with your departure.

A medical work-up can also be performed to rule out any physical causes for the anxiety, such as a thyroid problem. You can talk with your veterinarian about trying some products to help lessen Daisy’s anxiety. You still must work with desensitizing your dog from your departure and do the other things that will help your dog while you are gone.

ABOUT the Trainer
Debbie DeSantis, CPDT-KA, has been training and resolving problem behaviors in dogs for more than 19 years. A member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, Debbie has also passed the rigorous testing given by the only independent national certification for dog trainers administered by The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. She has written dog training columns for various publications. She specializes in rehabilitating dogs with behavior issues, including rescued dogs. Debbie has nationally ranked obedience dogs, rally obedience dogs, agility dogs, therapy dogs, and four dogs she rehabilitated from abusive and neglectful situations.

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