Reply To: Separation Anxiety

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Separation anxiety or isolation distress is a serious issue for dogs, and is really common in rescue dogs. One of the reasons for this could be because you are their “new-found safety” and so they don’t want to let you out of their sight. Another reason could be that they are scared to be on their own because life and the world is really really scary. So often in such cases, a whole host of fear issues need to be worked on, and ideally you will have the help and support of an APBC or CCAB behaviourist to devise a plan encompassing everything. Time and patience are of the essence. So, the short answer is, and apologies for breaking bad news, but if your dog cannot cope with you even leaving the room, you will be unable to leave her for short periods AT ALL alone in the house right now. You will have to enlist the support of friends, family and doggy day-cares in the short term, whilst you work on building her confidence. Separation anxiety needs a strategic approach – one area must be tackled before another be attempted. The reason for this is because a dog cannot learn a new positive association to something if they are already experiencing a negative association.

Simple things that you can do in the meantime will help your rescue dog learn more independence – this includes throwing some kibble behind you whilst you pop out for a second or two, and then returning. Another thing you can do is to help your rescue dog settle apart from you when you are together – so this means making sure her bed is super comfy and giving her treats and chews when she is in there to encourage her to have a small amount of confidence – away from you. This, plus plenty of reward-based training, games and fun, will help her start to learn that the world can be good and set her on her way. Good Luck.

Penaran Higgs BSc Psychology, PgDip CABC (Companion Animal Behaviour Counselling)