Ask The Trainer
Ask The Trainer: Seperation Anxiety With Sitter
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Q. I was reading the article about separation anxiety. My dog, Dixie, is a 3-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer. She deals well with being alone. My husband and I both work, so she has adapted to being alone all day. However, we have a problem leaving her with other people. We always have the same people dog-sit her. When we leave, Dixie goes crazy, whining and barking. She usually won't eat or sleep for the first day or so, and the crying goes on for quite some time. Any suggestions for how we might be able to alleviate some of these difficult behaviors?
A. In-home pet-sitting is my preferred choice for my animals, too — either having someone stay with my animals while I'm away, or having them board in the home of a familiar, well-liked person. It isn't clear from your description which option you're using — but, either way, one possibility is that in that context Dixie does have separation anxiety.
Dixie's obvious emotional distress and her failure to eat are consistent with that idea. More data would help, though. Are your departures kept emotionally low-key? Are your absences linked with stress in your own lives, that your behavior might reflect? (For instance, if you are leaving to care for a seriously ill relative, you may well be agitated and even irritable before you go.)
Does Dixie attempt to escape the place where she's staying (whether it's your home or the sitter's)? Is the behavior getting more extreme over time, getting better, or staying the same? Does Dixie get plenty of exercise just before you leave her, so that she's primed to take a good long nap instead of getting worked up? A good behavior counselor will take a careful history and use it to set up a behavior modification plan and help you execute it.