My dog has separation anxiety.
Nala’s pretty attached to both her dad and me. And it’s no wonder – for most of her life, one or the other of us has worked from home. Nala’s gotten used to having one of us home most of the time. Now, we’re working together in an office and she’s not adjusting to the change very well.
Those are the sad eyes of hearing her dad get in his car and drive away.
For some reason, she has a habit of gulping a lot of water whenever one of us gets home. It’s as if she doesn’t drink water while we’re gone and can’t wait a moment longer to drink. It’s been going on for a while, and something we chalked up to one of her many quirks. Then it took a turn for the worse.
A month ago or so, we noticed that Nala would do her usual gulping, then vomit the water right back up. The first time it happened, we thought maybe she simply got over excited. Then it happened again a few days later, and again a few days after that. So we consulted a vet.
The vet said that if it was happening with both food and water, it could be a stomach issue. But if the vomiting was strictly connected to her drinking water when we got home (which it was) then it could very well be a case of separation anxiety.
I read through the academic articles on separation anxiety the vet gave me and I couldn’t deny it – it sure sounded like Nala. One major clue was her over attachment. Nala follows us from room to room. If her dad and I are in different rooms, she positions herself between us. She had begun whining and fussing as soon as she heard us pull up. Another big sign was destruction while alone. At the same time the vomiting began, she began digging in the yard again. There’s more, but the bottom line was this: her hyperattachment to us was now hurting her.
I started to use some of the suggestions from the articles to counter this. I started ignoring her when I came home, so as not to reward the whining. I didn’t scold her for it, but I didn’t reward it either. I also changed my routine of leaving so that it wasn’t much of a routine anymore. I stopped with my usual send-off (pets along with cooing just before I walked out the door) to stop calling attention to the fact that I was leaving. Further, I turned her blue Kong
into a toy that she only got while we were gone. It was made more special by the fact that it now contained frozen peanut butter every day (yum).
Freezing peanut butter in the Kong makes it last longer - and keeps Nala busy longer. Click the pic to get yours.
And it’s working!
Nala hasn’t made herself sick in a few weeks, and the digging has stopped. I can no longer hear her whining before I’ve even opened my car door when I get home at night. Nala’s so into the Kong that, even when I run back into the house if I’ve forgotten something, she doesn’t pay me any attention. She’s much more interested in the Kong than she is in my comings and goings.
The hardest part has been trying to counter the hyperattachment. It’s hard to ignore her sad eyes (oh, she knows how to use them) and to not pet her every time she’s near me. But if the hyperattachment is hurting her, I need to temper it so that she can handle being on her own. It’s been really tough, but it seems to be working and it’s not lessening our bond any.
My dog has separation anxiety. We’ve been lucky – it seems like it’s been a mild case. She wasn’t incredibly destructive, and we’ve been able to work on it mostly on our own.
If your dog has signs of separation anxiety, please talk to a vet
or dog behaviorist. Some dogs need behavior modification therapy, medication, and more. Serious cases need and deserve professional intervention.
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