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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Separation Anxiety in Labs

In a little more than 24 hours, my family and I will be boarding a flight to sunny Florida and a few days of a much needed vacation. The golf clubs are packed and last minute arrangements are being made. Everything is going exactly as planned, so why am I nervous? Plain and simple - our Labs!

There have only been a few times where we have left Dakota for a period of time but, there was always one of us still at home with them. First was my business trip to Boston, where I received a call from my husband stating that Dakota was at the veterinarian because she couldn’t stop throwing up. Seems she decided to let us know that she was not happy that I was gone by eating a lot of Kleenex. Luckily, it passed and she was fine.

The second time was when my husband had to stay a few days in the hospital. I was home every day with Dakota and she would greet me happily as I released her from her crate or picked her up from doggie daycare. After a couple of hours, she noticed that he wasn't going to be home anytime soon and began crying around the house and searching for him.

The third and last time we left her was another business trip to Boston. This time, she decided to shred her dog bed to pieces while in her crate for the night. Luckily, she didn’t ingest any of the large foam pieces but, nonetheless, she was not happy!

Dakota always has a way of telling us what is on her mind and that is why I am a bit nervous about leaving her. Sure, our cousin will be house-sitting and taking care of the pups, but Dakota is... well... spoiled by my husband and I am sure that our cousin will not be able to replace my husband nor me during the 4 days we are gone. What about Cheyenne? Well, she will be perfectly fine! Cheyenne is a sassy and independent little girl, whereas Dakota is more codependent.

Our trip to Florida will lead to separation anxiety for Dakota - which is quite normal in the Labrador Retriever dog breed. Some common signs of separation anxiety include, but are not limited to:

  • increased panting
  • attention seeking behavior
  • become "Velcro dog" - not leaving owner's side
  • changes in appetite
  • excessive chewing
  • disobedience
  • decrease in energy level

In order to prepare for our departure from Dakota's world for a few days, we have taken the following steps to help both of the girls overcome any separation anxiety they may feel by:

  1. Having someone house-sit instead of taking the Labs out of the home environment
  2. Scheduled doggie daycare for all weekdays (added 1 extra day to not disrupt their normal "schedule" - this also makes them more tired when they are home)
  3. Had cousin come to visit earlier in the week and spend time with the dogs
  4. Preparing frozen "Kong" treats and leaving them in the freezer to promote good behavior
  5. Prepared extra ice cubes to curb Cheyenne's teething (chewing) on inappropriate things while we are gone
  6. Wrote up their normal schedule for cousin to follow (disrupting dogs' schedule while gone will make separation anxiety worse)
  7. Labs will be in kennels (crates) when left alone (per normal)

Whatever the reason for leaving a Lab alone or disrupting its normal schedule with its owner, the best solution is to get their minds off the fact that the owner is not there. This can be done by using treats, such as frozen stuffed Kongs, or scheduling a couple of extra days at daycare (if they normally go). Also, having someone available to be with the dogs as much as possible is a great idea as well. Our cousin just happens to be a college student that lives with her mother only 5 minutes away. This allows the cousin to be here a good amount of the time when our Lab Brats are home and if she is unable to pick them up from daycare; her mom or other family members can help out. The main focus for us is to keep the girls on a schedule they are used to and therefore minimizing the anxiety levels until we return. If all goes well, we should have happy puppies when we return as well as no unnecessary vet bills and our home intact. Let's keep our fingers crossed.




Blogger FT said...

This is a great post. My little Chihuahua Teddy is having separation anxiety issues my wife and I are trying to work through.

I read another great post on dog separation anxiety yesterday on - take a look

I think working with a dog to train him through the process is key., Leave the house for a bit to test him, try a webcam to keep an eye from the neighbors house.

Somethings got to work - until then I'm gonna keep on trying :)

May 07, 2009 11:08 AM  

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