Me and My Shadow – Part II

dog shadowing and separation anxiety
Last week we discussed your dog’s healthy habit of following you around… your little shadow.

Is your dog’s “shadowing” a cause for concern? Sometimes there is a fine line between a healthy pack relationship and the potential for separation anxiety. When I leave the house to go somewhere, Rex is totally okay with it. Sometimes before I even walk out the door, he has already gone to one of his many beds. When I get home, he normally has slept the entire time and comes to the door stretching and wagging his tail.

Apprehension

Clues that your dog may suffer from separation anxiety is if your leaving results in destructive or otherwise inappropriate behavior. If Rex were to become agitated or outwardly stressed when he sees that I am preparing to leave the house, then there is definitely cause for concern.

Symptoms

Separation anxiety can take on many forms and symptoms. Some dogs try and block their leader from leaving the house. Some will try to escape their surroundings in absence of their owner, sometimes harming themselves in the process. He/she may urinate or defecate, not out of defiance, but out of fear of being left alone. He may pant, or whine, or begin howling and pacing.

He needs your help

My heart breaks for the dog that endures the anguish of separation anxiety. Often times it is a shelter dog who has a fear of being abandoned by his owner again. And sadly, it’s one of the major reasons a dog ends up in the shelter in the first place. Isn’t that tragic? If you think your dog agonizes over brief separations from you, don’t let him suffer. He needs your help. Just remember that your dog isn’t trying to be spiteful or mean. Punishment for his behavior is not an option. He is sincerely in panic mode.

First step

Start with a trip to the vet to make sure there are no underlying medical reasons for his behavior. After that, a veterinary behaviorist can lead you through a course of treatment to overcome the anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s not a quick fix. It can be very time consuming and difficult.

Let us help

I think most experts will agree that we can be of help to you when dealing with separation anxiety. Until your dog has learned that your separation does not indicate the finality of your relationship, don’t leave him alone. Bring him to Holiday Barn. day-camp, day boarding, or a trip to the spa is a great alternative to being left alone at home. As a side-benefit, a physically tired pet who has played all day at camp will less likely expend the energy that it takes to pace, howl, or otherwise act-out some of the destructive symptoms of separation anxiety.

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