Separation Anxiety P.S.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

Dogs with separation anxiety are miserable -- they panic when they're left alone. They may howl, urinate and defecate, and chew desperately at doors trying to escape. "Silent sufferers" are those dogs who just shut down; their guardians may never even notice that anything's wrong, since the dog lies down quietly. To a non-expert eye, she probably looks relaxed.

In my episode on the subject, I didn't distinguish between "separation anxiety" and "isolation distress." They're closely intertwined. For both, good treatment combines behavior modification with appropriate meds. And most trainers and behavior specialists use the umbrella term "separation anxiety." But if your dog is anxious or frightened when you leave the house, you and your behavior consultant will want to figure out which of the two subcategories you're looking at.

A dog with "separation anxiety" panics when he's apart from a particular person or persons. Every time you go away, he flips. The quickest progress in behavior modification comes if you can avoid all separations from him except for the controlled ones that are part of your training plan. That's a tall order.

But a dog with "isolation distress" panics when left alone. He may be completely at ease if he has the company of your spouse, or if you leave him with a friend or a housemate dog, or at doggy day care. These options can make it a lot easier to avoid setting off his anxiety during your behavior modification program. And that, in turn, makes behavior change quicker.

For more about separation anxiety, check out Stacy Braslau-Schneck's page. Stacy links to other useful info, as well -- in fact, you can't go wrong on her whole website.

Whether your dog has separation anxiety/isolation distress, another behavior problem, or not a trouble in the world, she's an individual. The better you understand her likes and dislikes, what thrills her and what upsets her, the easier you'll find it to teach her and help her.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).