This is a term that is overused but for the sake of a simple solution to what can be a complex problem, I will use that term. In another posting I will address what true separation anxiety is and is not.
Separation Anxiety can manifest itself in many forms: chewing, whining, barking, self-mutilation, howling and diarrhea. Most often this is the reason why dogs are surrendered to shelters. HOwever it is a much easier problem to correct than most realize. Indirectly, good formal obedience training will correct the separation anxiety, or at the very least, decrease the intensity and frequency. However, good training takes time and until you are able to get Rover into a training class, I suggest that you start implementing a complete multi-faceted program of rehabilitation.
First and foremost, get a crate in which Rover will feel comfortable. I always recommend an airline crate because if you find it necessary to go out of town by plane, you already have the correct crate for your trip. Start feeding Rover in the crate as it will help him adjust and learn to like the crate much better than he does now. Keep his bones and toys in the carte as well. Set it up to become his bedroom.
Make sure that your dog is on a premium diet. Foods that are high in sugars or undigestible ingredients such as corn. The money that you spend on a premium dog food will be offset by the savings in veterinary bills and destroyed items in your home.
Another key component is exercise. Different dogs needs different types of exercise. You don’t want to take your dog running his first time out for five miles. Just like you have to build your endurance, so does he. Start out slowly, If you have a young puppy, under 10 months, you may want to consider only running him on grass so that the impact is more absorbed and less difficult on his joints.
Running is one form of exercise but so is obedience training or trick training. When you train your dog to do things, you are challenging them mentally, physically and emotionally. Dogs need those three things to become balanced and happy dogs. Mental stimulation is an integral part to any dogs life. They need to be challenged, otherwise they can become restless and bored. I remind owners that it is similar to being out of work for a week sick, you start to go a little stir crazy and look forward to the mental and social stimulation at work. Physical exercise and stimulation teaches them to use their body, builds confidence and helps them to relax thereby decreasing the chances of separation anxiety.
The mental and physical stimulation helps balance their emotional well-being because they are becoming more confident, understand you and their surrounding world more easily. They enjoy the challenge of learning while decrease the frustration level they may have from being bored and not having any type of interaction or challenging work.
Teaching your dog tricks are a great way to exercise your them. A nice fast paced walk before you leave them alone can be very effective. Purchase a back pack and weigh it down with water bottles. Take them for a brisk walk in the heel position which requires more “work” than a walk where they can stop and sniff everything. Ask any soldier and they will tell you, marching in sync with your fellow soldiers creates unity, structure, exercise and is actually mentally and physically challenging, despite how “easy” it may look. By forcing your dog to “march in sync” with you, you are also challenging them in the same ways.
If your dog is suffering when you leave for the day, make sure that they are safely confined in their crate. I recommend exercising them throughly before you leave. It could be a strict formal heel exercise for about 30-45 minutes, a session of teaching or practicing all sorts of tricks or even practicing obedience skills. Another great energy burner is what I call puppy pushups. A rapid succession of the sit and down exercises back to back.
You can also play fetch with a huck toy or get them a game cube that they can push around until the kibble comes out while they are in the kennel. Another great option is a good bone that they like to chew to keep them amused.
REscue Remedy which can be found at any health food store is also a practical and safe supplement to add to their drinking water or put a drop on their tongue before you leave. It soothes and calms them. Lavender oil can also be massaged on the inside of their ears to help relax them when they are left alone.
Any complete rehabilitation program is effective. The key is consistency and that program must include: training, exercise, proper nutrition, play time and even supplements such as flower remedies. Be patient, this is not a problem that developed overnight and it will take even longer to rectify the problem