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Your dog doesn't want you going to work or on vacation. How to handle separation anxiety

Karen Garcia, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

If the problem behavior is mild, your veterinarian may refer you to a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement training techniques. Sueda said that if the problem is more concerning, the doctor might refer you to a veterinary behaviorist — a specialist in treating behavioral issues in pets.

Veterinarians also may prescribe medications that reduce anxiety. Lowering anxiety, Sueda said, allows the pet to learn new behaviors and coping strategies through positive reinforcement.

Training techniques

If your veterinarian recommends a trainer for your dog's separation anxiety, Komisar advises finding a certified professional. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has tips on how to choose a trainer based on specialty.

Komisar acknowledges that a dog dealing with separation anxiety can be incredibly distressing for the owner too.

But separation anxiety is treatable.


"If we put in the time, if we put in the effort, it is possible to see success and to see [your pet] start to be comfortable with alone time," she said.

How much time and effort? Komisar said she usually tells clients that the process can take months.

Through Calm Canine Academy, she starts with suspending absences — so if you have to go to work or school and don't have someone who can stay with your dog, hire a pet sitter.

Next, Komisar works with the owner to understand at what point the dog begins to panic. If it's within 10 minutes of the owner leaving home, then they'll start by training the dog to be comfortable being alone for less than 10 minutes and work their way up.


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