Thursday, October 25, 2012

Separation Anxiety : Part 1

Anxiety isn't a good feeling for any of us.  There are so many things in life for us humans to be anxious about.  When we do get anxious, however, we can rationalize things, talk to a friend, or do any number of things to make us feel better.  Well, dogs can't talk it out, so they find other means to express their anxiety.  For example:

That just so happens to be my living room covered in shredded toilet paper.  Silly Mommy (me) didn't put away the brand new 16 pack double rolls of toilet paper before leaving for work.  And wouldn't you know that not a single roll out of 16 was left unscathed.  Boy oh boy my little girl had a field day while we were gone.  Now that you've seen what anxiety can do to your house, let me tell you how we solved the problem at our house.
Enter the crate: one of the most valuable tools you can have for training your dog, in my humble opinion.  Little miss June was crated everyday after this little toilet paper incident until we got her anxiety under control.  Three words for you: ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE.  Dogs are creatures of habit, which I am sure you may already know.  They most certainly know when it is time for breakfast as well as dinner.  I would guess most of you don't even need an alarm clock.  "Excuse me, Mom, but it's 6:00am on the dot.....Could we have breakfast now?", they politely ask while laying on your head.  Aren't they lucky they are so darn cute?
The key for my husband and I to breaking June of her anxiety while we were at work was our routine.  We kept the dogs' schedule as rigid as our work schedules would allow.  We would feed them at the same time each day, let them outside at the same time each day, and put June in the crate at the same time each day.  One thing that is bad about routine, however, is that dogs are smart.  Pretty soon June didn't want to fall for the cookie in the crate routine anymore.  She still got crated; it was just a little more effort to get her in there.  She got used to her routine though, and she knew we would always be coming back to let her out at about the same time each day.  Having reliable parents will help put any dog at ease, but that is just the beginning.
There are other tools you can use to help your dog overcome separation anxiety.  One that is my personal favorite is the Kong.  The Kong is a durable rubber toy you can get at any pet store.  It is a great chew toy, but I have always used it to treat anxiety.  Here are your new best friends:

Now just take a dollop of peanut butter on a knife or a spoon and spread it inside the Kong like this:
You would probably need to use a little more than this.  I just used a little for effect because my model didn't need to eat too much peanut butter.  Also, you can freeze it overnight to make it last a little bit longer while you are gone.  Luckily, I found a willing model to show you how it works:
Oh, Cooper!  Ben and I think he looks like a bear with a beehive when he licks the Kong.  Adorable!  And don't worry, June got a spoon of peanut butter, too!
The Kong is a great tool.  Just drop it in the crate when you leave and your pup will be so excited about peanut butter that he/she will hardly notice you are gone! 
These few simple steps are just the beginning.  Stay tuned for Part 2!  If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions before I post Part 2, I would be happy to address them in my next post. 
Thanks for stopping by!

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