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CONTINUED - When your Dog Hates being Alone…Part II
By Rebecca Kaplan
Published May 7, 2012
Causes and Presentation

The cause of SepA in dogs is unknown.

According to their web site, the Humane Society states that SepA can be attributed to several common scenarios, including leaving a dog that is used to constant human company alone for the first time; a dog suffering a traumatic event like time in a shelter or boarding kennel; a change in the dog’s daily routine or structure; or the loss of a family member or pet.

Its presentation differs among individual dogs but SepA typically appears when the dog senses its owners are preparing to leave.

“SepA will present itself loud and clear when the dog begins to go into ‘panic mode’ when the owner starts the process of leaving,” said Ambron. “A dog will often follow the owner around frantically as the preparations for departure begin. The anxious behaviors will worsen when the owner actually leaves a dog alone (even for a few minutes) and returns to discover destruction, neighbor complaints about constant barking, urine or feces on the floor despite the dog already being taken out, excessive drool or panting displays, and in some severe cases, the dog will try and exit the home by frantic digging and scratching of walls, floors, and doors.”

Prevalence

Ambron said SepA has not shown, in her experience, to be breed specific.

“A well socialized/adjusted dog will generally not exhibit SepA in any extreme form requiring professional help,” she said. “Fido may protest not being able to join the family in the car with a few barks or whines but then settles down after you leave without incident — [that is] not SepA.”

There is, however, a higher incidence of SepA among the rescue dog population.

“Their histories are usually unknown and by the very fact they are in a shelter presupposes some form of abandonment which is very traumatic and can be an underlying cause for the anxiety,” said Ambron. “Ironically, SepA is one of the top reasons many dogs end up in the shelter, which is unfortunate because it responds very well to training techniques and medications.”

Ambron added that early socialization, exposure to a variety of situations and a structured routine as a pup can diminish a dog’s chances of having SepA.

Treatment

So what can be done to help one's dog overcome SepA?

Michael DiMarco, a certified dog trainer and owner of Doggy Be Good Kennel Camp in Queens offered a few suggestions.

"Training techniques vary between dogs and you have to factor in other aspects of the dog's behavior when treating them for separation anxiety. That said, some techniques that have worked for our clients include exercising with your dog before you leave so that they are inclined to rest while you're away, leaving music or television on for your dog to keep the dog company in your absence and not saying good-bye to your dog when you exit." DiMarco added, "It's important when you train a dog to reassure them that when you leave you will be coming back. Unfortunately separation anxiety is more common among rehomed dogs because they remember being abandoned once before, they have to be assured that they are not being abandoned again."
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