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How do you treat your dog for separation anxiety?

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Quick Answer

Treat a dog's separation anxiety by using counterconditioning and desensitization techniques to make the dog feel positive about being alone, advises the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Crate training may also be helpful.

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How do you treat your dog for separation anxiety?
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Full Answer

Counterconditioning works by re-teaching a dog to associate positive feelings with a negative circumstance. Giving an anxious dog treats or toys reserved only for moments of separation is one way to introduce counterconditioning, states the ASPCA. Desensitization, in this case, is gradual and short-term exposure to separation with the goal of lessening anxiety over time. Leaving a dog alone in a room or crate for a few minutes at a time and then reappearing with a reward teaches it not to fear solitude.

Before treating a dog for separation anxiety, determine if there are underlying medical or behavioral problems causing the unwanted symptoms. Medical problems that could cause separation anxiety symptoms in dogs include urinary incontinence caused by kidney disease, neurological abnormalities or Cushing's disease, according to the ASPCA. Medications may also cause the involuntary soiling commonly associated with separation from humans. Consult with a veterinarian if incontinence is one of the dog's main symptoms at the time of separation.

After ruling out medical issues, investigate pre-existing behavioral problems such as boredom, urine marking and excessive barking. Train a dog with proper professional guidance if any of these problems exist when the dog is not alone, as they may be unrelated to separation anxiety, the ASPCA advises.

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