01_AKC_Maltese_Dog_Show_2013Do you feel guilty when you have to go out or even go to work, because of the way your Morkie reacts? If he seems to miss you too much, or has problems when you’re away, he may be suffering from a common problem, called separation anxiety.

The good news is, this syndrome is treatable – which we’re glad to hear, since it can be really wrenching for the owner, and very worrisome. Plus, it can put a large amount of psychological strain on your dog too.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Before you go out

Do you feel like your Morkie is “velcro’d” to you sometimes? When you’re home, does your dog follow you from room to room, even insisting on coming in he bathroom with you? Experts call this “hyper-attachment” and it can be the first sign of separation anxiety.

Another warning sign is how sensitive your dog is to you getting ready to go out. Putting your shoes on, opening the hall closet, or grabbing your keys may signal you’re getting ready to leave and so the anxiety, anxious behavior and nervousness all begin.

While you’re out

Once you’re gone, even for a short time, your dog coconut_maltese3may demonstrate these signs of separation anxiety: barking, chewing, defecating, digging, excessive salivating, scratching, and urinating. Chewing, digging, and scratching are signs of your dog trying to “escape.” Barking, defecating, excessive salivating, and urinating are signs of anxiety and fear. Chewing items that smell like you is not only extremely annoying, it’s a sure sign that there’s a bigger problem than disobedience at work here.

When you’re back

A common symptom of an anxious dog is that they when they see you again, they are excessively overjoyed. It’s a frantic, out of control kind of greeting

Causes of Separation Anxiety

Such causes of separation anxiety include genetics, lack of socialization, lack of training, lack of confidence, mistreatment by a previous owner, extensive confinement, and too much bonding with the owner. As you can see, most of these are the owner’s responsibility.

Other contributing factors can include:

  • a traumatic event in a young dog’s life
  • too-early separation from the mother
  • time spent in a pet shop or an animal shelter
  • a major change in the family’s lifestyle
  • a sudden new environment such as moving to a new home
  • a change in your life — like a new job, divorce, death or a new baby — all of which can take time away from your pet

Treatment of Separation Anxiety

There are things that you can do to prevent separation anxiety. morkie-puppy-having-a-bathWhen you put your dog in his crate, don’t have a long, emotional good-bye. Simply, walk away. It is even a good idea to ignore your Morkie for the 5 minutes before you leave. If you draw attention to your departure, your dog will worry when the love and emotion is suddenly stopped.

Also try to teach your Morkie not to associate certain behaviors of yours with your leaving the house and being away for hours. Vary your own behavior; dogs are good at associating certain actions with certain outcomes.

Try changing your dog’s negative associations to your behaviors to positive ones. For example, on a weekend, go through the same motions you do during the week. Get dressed for work, pick up the car keys and go outside… BUT just for a few minutes, then come back inside and give your dog a treat. You dog will eventually begin to associate you getting ready for work as a positive association rather than a negative one.

Make sure you have plenty of treats and toys in your dog’s crate or closed-off area to keep him entertained while you are away. If your Morkie always knows that he’ll have treats when you leave, it won’t be as traumatic for him.

Before you leave, turn on a radio or television so your Morkie has some noise. A talk station is more effective than music, because the sound of human voices seems to be comforting.

Turn down the homecoming

When you return home, ignore your dog for a few minutes. Go quietly about your concerns, then calmly acknowledge his presence and let him outside to eliminate immediately.

What if these measures don’t work?

dog and vetIn extreme cases, you may need to consult with your veterinarian who may recommend a calming type medication and or behavior modification. Professional trainers may be of good help here, helping you with desensitization techniques.

Things that will NOT help separation anxiety

Punishment will not only fail, but it will generate more anxiety and nervousness in your dog. Obviously those are the last things you want to increase. Remember your Morkie is not bad or spiteful and is not destroying your house just to get revenge on you for leaving her, though it may seem that way. Instead, you are dealing with a very fearful and upset animal.

Crating your dog for long periods while you’re out can be a real mistake if he or she suffers from separation anxiety. While it keeps your own possessions and surroundings safe, your Morkie may hurt himself or get much more excited by trying to ‘escape’ the crate. The crate itself, a wonderful training tool, will come to mean you’re leaving and all that goes with that for the anxious dog.

When you pay close attention to your dog’s behavior, you are better able to identify his bad behaviors and correct them through training exercises. Your dog wants your attention and love, so when use this to your advantage when you are training. Keep in mind that good quality dog training resources can help with this issue.