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As professional in-home pet care providers, we work with a variety of anxiety situations with the dogs and cats in our care.  We have worked with dogs with fear anxiety that presents like aggression, anxiety around new people, anxiety over new canine siblings, anxiety over a change in routine, anxiety presenting as dog reactivity, and with dogs and cats with separation anxiety.  With the adoption of our new dog, Penelope, we are now taking a personal Journey to Overcoming Dog Separation Anxiety.  We’ll be walking through our journey in this Personal Story series and our ‘Overcoming Separation Anxiety in Dogs’ series.  Be sure to read Step One if you haven’t already.

Meeting Penelope

Penelope was found wandering the streets between the Savannah and Union Park master-planned communities in the Aubrey/Little Elm area.  She had been seen for nearly 8 days when she was trapped by Hope’s Rescue and Recovery Angels.  Before being trapped, I had the honor to spend several hours over a few days hand-feeding her, gaining her trust, and watching her sleep.  She was comfortable with me getting close to her but wanted no part of me trying to touch her, put a leash on her, or take her home.  Once she was trapped, she moved in with us.  The first couple of days, she slept… a lot.  But then, we started seeing signs of Separation Anxiety.

Overcoming Dog Separation Anxiety: The Warning Signs

We have always believed that dogs really like having their own space.  The first thing we did was give Penelope her own crate, with comfy blankets.  She really liked that space the first couple of days in our home.  After that, not nearly as much.  Each time she was in her crate and we were out of the room, she would cry and carry on like nobody’s business.

Within a few days, her crying became an extreme level of anxiety that had her tearing at her crate trying to get it out.  It started to pose a threat to her well-being, so we moved to allowing her outside of her crate and started to make an action plan.

Her separation anxiety continued outside of her crate.  She anxiously ran from the front door to the living room every couple of minutes.  She cried.  She howled.  She started destructive behavior tearing up things around the house.  She panted.  She howled some more.

In addition to the videos above, whenever I would leave the room or the house, Penelope would cry, whine and howl.  The moment I came back, she was all over me as if I had been gone for years – when sometimes i was gone less than a minute.  All of these things point to a pretty big separation anxiety situation.  It also could be much worse and I knew that we were in the early stages of Separation Anxiety and there are many worse stages to come if we didn’t take action now.

Overcoming Dog Separation Anxiety: Initial Steps to Ease Symptoms

When we began to see symptoms of anxiety in Penelope, we started approaching her anxiety with the following steps:

  • We incorporated Spa Music,
  • We gave treats when we first put her in her crate,
  • We gave her bones to chew on,
  • We stuffed Kongs and other rubber puzzle toys with food, yogurt, baby food and peanut butter, froze them and then gave her one each time we left,
  • We purchased an Adaptil Pheromone Collar to reduce her overall anxiety,
  • We used pheromone spray on a bandana each time before we put her in her crate or left, and
  • We took her on a walk to stimulate her brain and wear down her body before leaving each time.

Whew.  It’s a lot, right?  Each approach we added was unsuccessful in eliminating or even reducing Penelope’s anxiety symptoms.  When we see anxiety so great that “nothing is making it better,” it really gives you the indication that you are going to have to start from the beginning.

Overcoming Dog Separation Anxiety: A Game Plan

As we worked through all of the above, we started to develop a game plan.  We hear people talk about ‘fixing’ anxiety all of the time.  There is no quick fix or magic cure to solving canine separation anxiety.  A lot of the process is getting back to the root of the anxiety and retraining or relearning behavior without anxiety.  For us, this was going to look like starting in the beginning to retrain Penelope to love her crate and then to move on to teaching her it was okay to be alone.

Penelope working to Overcome her Separation Anxiety by sleeping in her crate.

As of this writing, we are still early in our Journey to Overcome Dog Anxiety.  As I write this, Penelope is willingly sleeping in her crate, in the living room.  She wasn’t encouraged in her crate and she wasn’t forced into it.  Instead, she has realized its her space, and its comfortable – and each night, she choose it over the LoveSac bean bag to sleep in while I am working or watching TV.

In our next blog in this series, we’ll share exactly what we have done, step-by-step to aid Penelope in Overcoming her Separation Anxiety.  Our hope through this Personal Journey series is for you to feel less alone if you are also going through this, while also empowering you to take steps to help your canine companion be more comfortable in their own skin – and away from you.

If you haven’t read it yet, please take a moment to read Overcoming Separation Anxiety In Dogs: First Steps.

Looking for in-your-home pet care?  Fur Services Fur Pets offers in-client-home dog sitting, puppy sitting and cat sitting in the Aubrey, Little Elm, Frisco, Prosper and Celina areas.  Need more information?  Check out our services: Pet Sitting | Cat Sitting | Overnight Stays | Almost Overnights | Live In Care.

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