Post 4.2 - Separation Anxiety

For all the great behavior my dog displays, separation anxiety is a continuing and difficult problem.

The latest incident occurred just this week.

Knowing it would be an issue for him to be alone, and because it was on the way, I took him to my mother's house on my way to a job fair. I stayed there for lunch and then headed on my way to AZDES, returning about 45 minutes later (the job fair was a bit of a joke, but that's another story).

Apparently, despite having lived with my mother for almost two years when we moved to Arizona, and despite adoring his canine playmates, he spent nearly the entire time I was gone trying to hide... ostrich-style, shoving his face between my mother and a cabinet, for example. Eventually, he decided to hide behind the couch in the family room, and flinched whenever my mother touched him.

When I returned, he was ready to go. He was panting, pacing, and bothering me to put his leash on him. He practically dragged me to the car when I was ready to leave. And then he slept for the whole ride home.

He developed separation anxiety shortly after we moved to Arizona. For the first four years or so that we've lived here, I've traveled frequently for business, but he's always stayed with my mother during these periods that are never longer than two weeks, but might be as short as a weekend. It used to be that he would only panic if left home without a human present; he has tried to escape through the fireplace, through bathrooms, even across countertops, knocking appliances to the floor in the process. And of course, there are the occasional bathroom accidents, but only if he has access to a carpeted area. I should point out that he is 24 inches (61 cm) at the shoulder and weighs 65-70 lbs. He is not a little dog.

But now the stressed, panicky behavior has expanded to become an issue whenever I am absent for any length of time - even 15 minutes - if he can't determine where I am.

I've tried the technique of a peanut butter filled toy, but that doesn't work well because he's not food driven. I've left the radio or television turned on so there would be some kind of usual noise, but he ignores it now (he used to like classical or baroque music). Short of drugging him, I have found only two solutions: 1) take him with me, which means drive-thru activities only, like the bank, or 2) put him in the bathroom with the exhaust fan going, since it drowns out the sound of the garage door opening, and the room is tiled should there be any issues.

But this is no way to live, and I'm looking for suggestions, because I am truly at a loss. I have to be able to go out and do things without having to worry about something being destroyed.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at facetsblog@gmail.com.

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