How to Get Rid of Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Many Solutions to a Multi-Faceted Problem
Separation anxiety in dogs is a complicated problem with many potential causes and cures. Does your dog have it? My current dog has separation anxiety (3.5 years) and my former dog did also. How do you get rid of it? The first thing to do is to rule out other problems and confirm that your dog DOES have separation anxiety: that means, a trip to the vet.
Does your dog have separation anxiety?
Kennel size matters
My first suggestion would be to kennel her during the day. Her kennel should be a safe den for her to go in whenever she wants. My dog goes in her kennel because she wants to for some alone time, to get away from company if I have any, or if she's scared (of a noise outside or what's on TV or whatever). The door is always open to her kennel, which is a size too small for her, but she hates the larger size that is appropriate—it's not den-like enough, apparently.
Is your dog's kennel too big for her? If so, put a sturdy box in it to make it smaller. If that works, buy a smaller kennel for long-term and donate/sell the old one. Is it the enclosed kind or the open wire kind? If it's open wire, then cover three sides (all except a door) loosely with an old sheet or better yet use clean, used cardboard and just set it against the top and sides. Also, use a box (as described above) to make it into a small den if it's too big for her. Lock her in her kennel/"safe den" during the day. Also, apply Bitter Apple liberally to the items around the house that she chews most--it works for many dogs, but not all of them. Then hopefully she won't chew on things when you get home from work and let her out.
Dog exercise survey
How often do you go to the dog park with your dog, on average?
Exercise your dog: go to a dog park frequently
Make sure your dog gets tons of exercise--"a tired dog is a good dog". Play with her, cuddle with her, but also take her to the dog park several times a week for exercise with canine companionship. Note that walks are not serious exercise for the dog, just the human. Dog parks are what dogs need so they can run and play with their own kind. Make the trips at least 1/2 hour; many dogs need 2 hours or more several days a week.
Another important thing that should help is obedience training. Even if you've already been to classes, sign up for more classes even if you’ve already taken them. This helps reinforce to the dog that self-discipline is necessary at all times and increases the bond between you and the dog. Make sure your instructor knows why you are taking these classes—because of the dog's separation anxiety—and the instructor will probably be able to help a lot more proactively and specifically.
Appropriate chew toys
Also, make sure your dog has appropriate chew toys. After careful supervision for a long time, I've found that I can safely leave a classic red Kong, sized for my dog, in my dog's kennel and leave her all day. It provides stress outlet in the form of chewing that is PROPER chewing. Make sure she's got plenty of proper chew toys to play with when she's not in her kennel, too, and whenever you catch her chewing on something inappropriate offer an appropriate toy instead (and spray the inappropriate item with Bitter Apple as quickly as possible).
A trip to the veterinarian
If you're still not getting results using several of these methods at the same time, and after at least 4 weeks, take your dog back to the vet and ask the vet about medicines and other remedies. Medicines are controversial, just like psychiatric medication for humans (especially for kids), but it helps many dogs miraculously. Some over-the-counter medicines are "Pet-Eeze", "Rescue Remedy", and "Ultra-Calm".
Note that I've tried a pale blue necklace-type thing that emits "calming pheromones" to the dog--it smelled really bad, so I had to throw it out before it was even on her. It might or might not work, in other words, but be aware that it stinks in any case.
I haven't tried the plug-in calming products, such as "Comfort Zone", but that might help to put one next to her kennel during the day.
Prescription Anti-Anxiety Medicine for Dogs
Finally, talk with your vet about prescription anti-anxiety medicine, such as "Clomicalm" or one of several other options. It is expensive, but less expensive than your furniture and home being ruined and there is a generic form that is approximately 1/3 the cost. Each dog is an individual, just like humans, so some medicines and dosages will work for your dog and some won't. Maybe none.
Getting a companion animal
I think getting another dog as a companion, especially a rescue, might not be a wise idea until you've solved this problem with your dog. I'd try the above suggestions first. Perhaps a cat rather than a dog for a companion pet once your dog's symptoms are improved or controlled. But keep in mind the vet and toy and food bills add up quickly for each animal.
Please let me know if this works for you or if you need more help troubleshooting the problems with your dog! Very good luck and warm wishes to you if you are in this situation. I went through the same thing until I found the right combination of solutions (dog parks, meds, and cuddling) for my dog. It does require TONS of patience on your part, though.
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