Anxiety Attacks- How To Help Your Dog

My grandma says there are some dogs that suffer from separation anxiety attacks and I did not know what she meant. So she explained to me that once in awhile a dog gets very scared when its pet parent leaves them for a while.

My mom and pop-pop leave Mr. Yule and me every day when they go to work and neither of us seems to mind. We do, however, get very excited when they come home, as we are happy to see them as it means playtime and food.

But Gram says many dogs get very upset when their person leaves or even when someone new comes to visit, but there are ways to cope with the problem.

In general, according to Gram, many dogs that have lived in animal shelters or rescue shelters for a good portion of their lives seem to have this problem. However, dogs that have lived with their forever families all their lives can also suffer from separation anxiety.

Part of the problem she says, is that humans have a tendency to feel guilty about leaving their pets and because of their guilt, fuss too much over the pet before leaving. Thus making a bad situation even worse.

My Grandma understands that we dogs are very sensitive, and can pick up on your feelings. We have an uncanny way of knowing if you are upset and are feeling guilty about leaving us or if you are upset in general about something. That is why we are called man’s best friend, cause we know these things.

So how do you, the human, go about curing the problem. First of all, do not despair, as there are solutions to most dog behavior problems as long as you are willing to learn and spend time with us.

Dogs that have been abandoned and left in shelters seem to suffer more frequently from separation anxiety due to the fact their humans have left them for good and their forever homes were lost. But, do not let that fact deter you from adopting one of us.

A quick way to tell if one of my cousins is suffering from this condition is to watch us as you approach the kennel. If the dog starts clinging to the kennel fence like a piece of Velcro and is crying for your attention, that may be a signal that this dog needs someone to cling to. Asking the shelter attendant about the dog’s behavior under normal circumstances (when someone new is not around) can help. If the dog normally behaves inside the kennel and when out playing in an outside area does not attach itself to the attendant, you can be generally be assured that it is not suffering from separation anxiety.

However, if one of my cousins is suffering from this problem it can be cured, most of the time. Once the dog is settled in its new forever home it will calm down and relax. Think about how you would feel if you were left in a strange place with no family around you.

Another thing to consider according to my Grandma is that you, the human contributes much to creating separation anxiety in your dog. How, you ask?

Simple says my gram. Since dogs can sense a human’s feelings it is very possible that you are contributing to your dog’s anxiety because you feel so guilty about leaving your pet.

Think about it! You are in the process of getting dressed and you start thinking how sad you feel about leaving your dog, you fuss over the dog, talking your secret baby dog talk, you apologize for leaving and pretty soon you both are feeling very sad. You leave in the midst of kisses, pets and loving words, shut the door and the poor dog goes berserk!

Your poor dog knows you feel bad, but cannot understand why you left him/her if you care so much. If you locked your precious one up in its crate, it may try to find its way out because it wants to find you. If your pet is loose in the house, all kinds of things can happen from clawed woodwork to shredded rugs. So what is a human to do?

Since I am a dog, and I understand dogs, I have to say to you “straighten up your attitude.” Stop treating your dog like some poor pet that cannot be alone for a few hours. Stop babying us, we are intelligent creatures and should be treated as such.

First of all when you are getting ready for work or to go out, just get ready; do not think about leaving us alone. Get dressed and think about what you are going to be doing when you leave. Go about your business of getting ready. When you are ready to leave, an extra biscuit would be nice; a quick pat on the head and a “see ya later” should do the trick. I know it will be hard for you to do, but try it, as they say in the commercials “try it, you might like it,” I know as dog we would.

Okay, you say, but what if that does not work? Well, Gram says there are other things you can do to help a dog that has separation anxiety problems.

First of all see your vet and, if you are lucky enough to have a veterinarian that also works with behavior problems you are in luck. However, a vet can provide you with some stress reducing medications for your dog along with some ideas about handling the behavior. Under no circumstances rely on drugs to solve the problem. Drugs help calm down your dog, but the problem is behavior, and you have to work on that.

Gram also says hiring someone to come in for an hour during the day to walk your dog is a great idea and helps, as the dog then relates to another person or persons, as someone who does nice things.

If you are ambitious, you can walk your dog in the morning before you leave for work, a good walk will tire out your dog and a tired dog is a good dog. Just think what those walks could do for your waistline?

Today, there are doggy day care places, taking your dog to one of them provides fun for your dog and it certainly is a distraction for both of you. Even once a week would provide your dog with a new outlook on life.

As my Gram says there are no dog behavior that cannot be solved with a little work on the side of both parties involved, the dog and its human. The Internet is filled with helpful suggestions, there are many books on dog behavior problems in the marketplace, and many areas have people that specialize in solving behavior problems by working with you and your dog. There is no excuse to turn your back on your pet, raise up your hands and pack him/her off to the animal shelter as someone else’s problem.

We dogs are your best friends, we do not tell your secrets and all we ask is that you give us your time and your love. Is that a lot to ask?

Till next time I remain,

Your Sadie

Drs. Foster and Smith Inc.