Separation anxiety is a serious problem that directly impacts the health and well-being of the dog. It's not just about messes in the house (housetraining "accidents," chewing and destruction, scratching at doors and windowsills). The distress or panic that drives these dogs to wreak havoc while you're away also weakens their immune system, reduces their ability to cope with other stressful events, and seriously degrades their quality of life.
Nicole Wilde's book, "Don't Leave Me: Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog's Separation Anxiety" is a comprehensive, thoughtful, and supportive exploration of separation anxiety in dogs. It's my "go-to" book for any cases potentially involving separation anxiety. Nicole Wilde addresses you (the dog owner) directly, in a compassionate, straightforward, and easily understood manner.
The book includes answers to all the questions you may not know you should be asking.
- Determining whether your dog has "SA" (or not – the behavior may be due to other things)
- Understanding possible causes
- The "Firm Foundation" Program (i.e. what to do about separation anxiety), including: Management, nutrition, exercise, building confidence (helping the dog feel more secure), and pharmacological intervention. (Medication – appropriately prescribed by your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist — may be necessary for success if the dog is injuring herself or the family can no longer cope with the dog's behavior, and often resolves the issue much more quickly than behavior modification alone.)
- Behavior Modification (this is the step-by-step part of the book)
- Cool Tools (products that may reduce stress and anxiety and help your dog relax more)
- How to put it all together (sample treatment plan and how to create your own treatment plan)
If you're looking for basic information about separation anxiety, including what it is (and what it isn't), tips on preventing a dog from getting separation anxiety, and the basic techniques for helping a dog feel better when left alone, Dr. Patricia McConnell's "I'l be Home Soon" booklet may be all you need.
If you're living with a dog who exhibits the anxious and panicky behaviors associated with separation anxiety, I highly recommend "Don't Leave Me." This book provides the best multi-prong approach and step-by-step instructions I've found for helping your dog through his or her panic at being left alone.
For people who learn better by watching an listening, Nicole Wilde has also produced a DVD of one of her seminars on separation anxiety. It mirrors the information in her book. For more information and to see a video clip from the DVD, please see "Separation Anxiety: Both Sides Now" on Dogwise.com.
Is your dog a “problem barker?” This book offers worksheets and step-by-step procedures to help you determine why your dog barks so much and what to do about it. There are no quick fixes (”anti-bark” collars that use citronella spray work for some barking problems but not others; shock collars risk "fallout" in the form of other behavior problems). But there are proven methods for reducing your dog's barking through management and training.
First, it's important to understand the difference between true "separation anxiety" (a disorder that may require the use of anti-anxiety medicine) and behavioral problems that can mimic separation anxiety.
For example, urination or defecation in the house while left alone may be due to improper housetraining or to a medical cause, rather than being a symptom of "separation anxiety." Likewise, destructive behavior while left alone may simply due to boredom or (with puppies) teething.
Dr. McConnell fully explains what separation anxiety is – as well as what it isn't. She gives tips for dealing with problems that are "just" bad habits, so this is a good booklet even if your dog turns out not to have true separation anxiety.
Just as importantly, Dr McConnell explains how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs who haven't developed it yet. This includes "quiet but loving comings and goings," teaching your dog how to be comfortable in a crate, and making sure your dog is getting sufficient exercise.
If your dog does have separation anxiety, the "Treating Separation Anxiety" section spells out the things you need to do – and not do! – to help your dog overcome her anxiety. There's no "quick fix" - a typical behavior modification program will take several weeks (at a minimum) before you'll get to the point where you can consider the dog "cured."
But you and your dog will both heave sighs of relief once the agonizing symptoms of true separation anxiety are conquered.
Way to Go! by Karen London and Patricia McConnell presents the way to housetrain a dog of any age. Their advice boils down to making sure that the puppy (or adult dog) is in one of three situations at all times:
- Outside with you
- Inside with your constant supervision (and attention)
- Crated or gated off in a small dog-proofed room
The booklet goes into details including:
- Knowing when to head outside
- Handling accidents and clean-ups
- Expanding your dog's freedom
- Addressing problems (including physical or medical problems that can affect housetraining)
- Putting elimination on cue
If you consistently follow the procedures and advice in this booklet you will make steady progress towards having a fully housetrained dog!