Geriatic Separation Anxiety in Dogs

As your dog gets older, he is more likely to experience fear and anxiety disorders, such as separation anxiety in dogs. These behaviors can be caused by illness or just mental degeneration, but it's important to work with your dog and make his senior years as comfortable as possible.

Medical Causes

Dogs often become more anxious as they get older, experiencing phobias they never had as young dogs. This can be caused by loss of sight or hearing, mental degeneration or illness. If your senior dog has a sudden behavior change, consult your veterinarian first for a complete medical workup.

If that comes back negative, increasing your dog's comfort and adding a behavior modification plan can reduce the symptoms. Your vet may recommend medication to ease your dog's anxiety. Holistic products, such as a DAP diffusers or Rescue Remedy, are also available to reduce anxiety.

Create a Routine

Behavior changes in senior dogs are often caused by change. If you have recently changed your job, location or size of your household, your dog may be reacting to those changes.

To increase his comfort, set a fixed routine on which he can rely. This will provide him with a lot of comfort because he will know when his walks and meals are coming. Spend some time each evening just cuddling or playing with your dog, no matter how busy you are.

Create a Safe Space

Create a safe room for him to relax where he can't see you enter or exit, possibly near the back of the house. He doesn't need access to the entire house if his area is comfortable. Place his favorite bed, toys and treats in the area and spend time in the room with him. It shouldn't be a place of isolation. Play a radio or television for white noise.

Start placing him in the room alone for a few minutes when you're home. As soon as he calms down, join him in the room and spend some time with him. Gradually build up the amount of time he stays alone in the room. Put him in there when you leave so he'll have a safe place to relax. Place a shirt that smells like you under the door so he is comforted by your scent.

Desensitizing Your Departure

Often, your dog will begin to get anxious as soon as your departure routine begins. This could be when you put on your shoes and grab your purse or begin much sooner, depending on how predictable you are to your dog.

Notice when your dog starts to get stressed and start there. If this is when you put on your shoes, put on your shoes and then take them off and stay. Repeat this until he is no longer stressed when you put on your shoes. Do this with all the departure clues that upset him. Build up to walking out the door, starting your car and coming back.

Place him in his room before doing all these cues. Let him out when he settles down after each practice session. He will soon learn that his calm behavior predicts your return. If he ever gets too stressed, you're moving too quickly. Do this during a weekend or vacation so you have the time to dedicate. If you desensitize him slowly, he will soon be the calm dog you remember.