Monday, April 09, 2007

Labrador Retriever with Separation Anxiety

Readers E-mail - Trish Writes:

Hi Fay,

Was searching the internet and came across your site. Just needing some info on our white male lab. He is 7 years old and as is every lab, the most gentle, loyal friend a family could have. Our problem is that he is extremely close to my husband, usually not more than a few inches behind him wherever he goes, however when we go away he frets badly, this usually ends up with him vomiting on carpets etc while we are away. We have on the last two occasions asked our children to move into the home to look after him but have had no joy, although they love him dearly. Any ideas? Regards...Trish


Hi Trish....Thanks for writing and visiting the All About Labradors blog.

Assuming that there are no other medical problems with your Labrador Retriever, and he only does this while you are away, what you are dealing with is called separation anxiety. When your Labrador Retriever is separated from his human family (you and your husband) he experiences distress and then engages in problem behaviors (urine/stool, vomiting, constant barking, destruction of property) which are related to the anxiety of separation. He doesn't understand where you or your family have gone or if you will return. Separation anxiety is a very common behavior problem in dogs.

Here are a few things I recommend you can try to help with the problem:

Don't make leaving your house a big event. No doggie kisses, belly rubbing, telling him to be a good boy, or whatever else you might do before you leave your house. What you want to do is ignore him for 10-30 minutes prior to your leaving and your return. Make sure this is done every time you leave the house, and by all family members present in your home.

Give your Labrador Retriever something to do while your gone. Try mental stimulation toys such as the Kong® or Buster Cube (make sure whatever toy you use is the appropriate size for your dog) filled with his favorite food treat while you prepare to make your routine daily departures. I love these types of toys, as they are a great distraction for your Labrador and they spends hours trying to get the food treat out.

Increase your Lab's exercise (long walks, runs, play time) as well as some mental exercise. Training, exploring, and again the Kong toy as he tries to figure out how to get treats out. Plenty of exercise will help relieve stress and tension. Remember, A TIRED dog is a GOOD dog!

Continue reading...

You also want to practice leaving and return from your home in short intervals. Get up and leave your home for a couple of minutes, then return and go about your business as though you never left. Continue doing this while gradually increasing the amount of time that you stay away for. What you are doing is instilling confidence in your Labrador Retriever that you are going to always return when you leave. Repetition and increases in the time you stay away for are the key.

Crate training is also another option.

As for your Labrador following your husband around:

Your dog is a pack animal. Their family is their “pack”. In the wild, the pack is led by an alpha male and an alpha female. Your Labrador Retriever identifies your family as his pack and your husband as the alpha leader, causing him to want to stay close by.

You have to have your husband practice sit, stay, and come commands with him. If you need help with these let me know. Use treats and plenty of praise with this. He can make a game of it (mental stimulation) - have your Labrador sit then pet and offer praise. Practice the stay command, then go hide and say come so that he can find you. When he does offer plenty of praise, treats and start the game again.

Medical treatment may also help to reduce her anxiety. This is something you can talk to your veterinarian about if nothing else seems to be working out. He/she may also be able to recommend a behavior specialist if your training is not helping.

I hope this will be of some help to you. If you don't understand anything, or have any questions on other issues, don't hesitate to write.

I want to thank Trish for the handsome photo of her Labrador Retriever - Sam. To see a photo of him click on his name. Sam

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