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D2002-06

Dear Daisy Dog

When I'm away from home, my dog destroys the furniture and has accidents in the house. Why is she so vindictive?

Daisy Responds

We dogs love our people and our homes, so we're really not vindictive. Instead, your dog is probably suffering from separation anxiety. Such dogs become so anxious when their people leave that they chew on pillows, pull books off shelves, bark, whine, and may even urinate and defecate indoors.

Of course, you'll want to rule out other problems. For example, she may be urinating in the house because she has a bladder infection. Or she may have another medical problem which is causing her to drink excessively, and she just can't "hold it" all day.

Treatment of separation anxiety may involve both behavior modification and medication. First, modify your own behavior. When you leave home, remain quiet and unemotional. Don't make a fuss about missing your dog. When you return, greet your dog once, quietly, and don't play with her or feed her until she's calm.

When you're at home, practice desensitizing her by going over your departure routine (put your coat on, get your keys, etc.) many times during the day. And be sure she's confident being left in one room while you're in another.

Anti-anxiety medications can enhance the effectiveness of behavior modification. Clomicalm has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for dogs with separation anxiety.

Finally, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist who will work with you and your dog to solve this problem.

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