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Does your dog have separation anxiety ?


Whilst it is a very desirable feeling for some of us to know that our dogs can’t live without us, it’s not a healthy state of mind for our dogs to be so dependent upon us that they go into stress the moment we walk out of sight.

When we look at how we raise our children, we teach them to be their independent best so that we prepare them for the life ahead of them but we teach our dogs to be so very dependent on us and in some ways, that fulfils our emotional needs. There’s no denying how much most pet owners love their dogs, but when you look at things in a common sense and practical way, to have an animal under enormous stress when you leave it should be considered a form of abuse.

It’s true that not all dogs are the same and so there are some individuals that are needier than others. We also must take into consideration the amount of time we spend with our dogs. We want to ensure our dogs have great environmental enrichment and quality of life, but we also want to ensure that they can cope on their own and are comfortable in their own skin.

Due to the number of dogs Craig and Tracey Murray own and the amount of times that they must travel for work, we need to drop our dogs to boarding kennels whenever we need to travel. It’s great to see that when we leave our dogs, they are happy to go with whoever is holding the lead to take them to their accommodation. There is always the little twinge when we have to leave our dogs as we much prefer to have them with us and in our care, but it’s nice to know they are well adjusted and settled dogs that won’t suffer too much due to our change of circumstance. Naturally a change of environment is always going to have some element of stress but we want to keep it to a minimum. It shows we are trying to do best practice for our dog’s emotional needs.

At Craig A. Murray Dog school see the oncoming of separation anxiety well before it happens in a lot of our client’s dogs. They will mention the dog starting to display anxious tendencies when they are preparing to leave for work or to go out without the dog. If we can identify an upcoming problem at this stage, the owner’s behaviour can be easily adjusted to make the dog more comfortable with knowing the owner is leaving. It’s always best to give your dog time away from you when you are home for different periods of time so they randomly have to spend differing periods away from you - but whilst you are home to monitor their level of anxiety. Best to do things slowly and in small increments of time at first. You can make this process easier by placing an old towel or item of your clothing with your odour on it into the area with you dog. Once this practice has been replicated a few times you will notice the dog not being so anxious about its separation from you and in fact not triggering to things in the environment that could have previously caused an element of stress as they had become part of the leaving ritual.

Once you know the dog is comfortable away from you when you are home, this is the time to start small amounts of time out of the house and away from the dog. Don’t make a big deal of leaving by significantly having a leaving ritual with the dog before walking out the door – just gather your belongings and leave showing the dog it’s no big deal that you are leaving. By you showing confidence and relaxation with this process, it will transfer across to your dog. All too often the owner’s guilt at having to leave the dog will make the transition to leaving even more difficult for both parties.

If you have a dog with a well-established, long term separation anxiety issue, I would still suggest giving the dog very short amounts of time away from you at the start until you can increase the amount of time and know the dog can handle the separation. If even this small start to change the dog’s behaviour could increase the stress for the dog to the point that it may injure itself or do damage to the environment, that would be an indicator that you really do need veterinary intervention with a closely monitored drug program put into place to allow the dog to then undergo training with a clear and more stable mind to be able to handle the changes to its situation, the relationship with the owner and of course changes in the environment. Always be directed by your veterinarian as to which drug is best for your individual situation, and of course ask the relevant questions as to how long the dog should need to be on the medication and dosage rates. Also, best to work with a trainer that has experience dealing with more in depth behaviour issues to ensure the dog’s welfare is a priority.

If you would like to discuss training options with you and your dog, please contact Craig A. Murray Dog Training on (07) 3200 5421 or email enquiry@dogschool.com.au

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