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Unsure if separation anxiety
03-30-2017, 07:19 PM,
#1
Unsure if separation anxiety
My boyfriend and I rescued our dog Sady on her 4th birthday on October 26th of last year (2016), and over time, we've noticed she's gotten more and more anxious when we get home. We never yell or be loud, so we don't think we're scaring her... Originally we deemed it as excitement and would run around and play with her when we got home but I noticed she began shaking really hard, licking her lips, and running and jumping excessively. It's like she can't stop. So when we got home, we would just ignore her and look at the ceiling, and not talk until she calmed down. Sometimes this works, but not always. I figured out if we put her outside for around 10 minutes, she'd calm down, but now THAT doesn't help. I try to have her just lay in bed and chew a bone but she just can't contain herself. We do take her to the dog park every day for around an hour or until she gets tired, but we wait until she's calmed down to do it. We used to take her right when she got home but her anxiety just seemed to skyrocket if we did that.

We used to have another dog that would be with her all day, but passed away from distemper (contracted before we rescued him). We noticed she LOVES male huskies, so we're adopting one this weekend. We're thinking that she's lonely and needs to get her energy out while we're at work, but what if she's still anxious? Should we take her to the vet? Maybe try some anti-anxiety meds?

When we adopted her, she was startled by loud sounds, would be terrified if you put your hand up/over her head, and cower CONSTANTLY. Now she never cowers and loud sounds are fine, but I'm wondering if this is left over from her previous owners as well? 

Please help! We just want her to be happy.
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03-30-2017, 09:22 PM,
#2
RE: Unsure if separation anxiety
Hello,
Sady is surely lucky to have found owners that truly care for her and want to ensure she is settling in well in her new home. You mention you have observed increased anxiety when you get home, but in separation anxiety, the anxiety is at its peak when you are away from home. If your dog suffered from separation anxiety, more than anxiety you would observe over the top excitement, like if she hasn't seen you for a decade. This excitement is from the relief of not being alone anymore, more like a "phewww, you are finally home, you just saved my life! I was so scared and lonely by my self!"

Instead, you mention that upon coming home your dog is shaking, licking her lips and running and jumping excessively. It sounds more like your dog is anxious when you come home rather than when you are away. However, the best way to gain an insight that can help determine if she's truly suffering from anxiety is to record her behavior when you are away. If she is pacing, back and forth, whining, howling, barking, drooling and scratching at windows and doors in your absence these are key signs of separation anxiety. Perhaps your recording can also show you if she acts frightened of any noises.

While you mention that you do not yell or act loud upon coming home, it could be that your running around and playing with her could have frightened her at some point, especially since you mention she is of a sensitive nature and was easily startled by noises in the past. You seem to be on the right path when you try to ignore her upon coming come, but you mentioned that sometimes this does not work. How about taking her for a walk instead? The park may be too overstimulating for her, while perhaps she needs more a structured calm activity such as a long walk intermixed with some training like sits at sidewalk corners and opportunities to sniff around. Going to the dog park every day or to doggy day care too often is often too overstimulating to dogs and dogs seem to have little time to "recover."

Finding her a playmate may or may not work, this is very difficult to determine. It might be a better option to foster a dog from the shelter that looks compatible for her and see how it works out. If it works out, great, if not, you have helped the shelter out.

More than calming aids, I would think to try to skip the daycare and dog park and try to provide more structured, calming activities, calm walks, sniffing opportunities, training sessions and interactive games. Get her brain to work rather than engaging her in over-the-top stimulating activities.

Seeing the vet is a good idea to rule out any medical problems that could trigger her anxiety such as hypothyroidism, so it's a good starting point. There are calming aids such as Anxiety Wraps and supplements with L-theanine that can calm dogs down, but I am wondering if you can try first to work on her more into learning to engage in calmer behaviors. Maybe an obedience class or some structured activities like nosework or agility may help her out. On top of releasing pent-up energy in a structured matter, these activities can help boost her confidence.
Former AAHA animal hospital employee, dog trainer and dog behavior consultant. Published dog author on several print and web publications.
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