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Ask a Vet: My Dog Has Separation Anxiety, Help!

Photo by San Diego Shooter, via Flickr. 

Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!

Q: I have a dog with major separation anxiety and my dog walker has threatened to fire me because of my dog’s bad behavior. I have spent thousands of dollars working with all sorts of personal trainers, etc., but nothing has worked. I have no faith that seeing yet another behaviorist will work. What should I do? Help! 

A: I get emails and call like this almost every day and it saddens me to hear how frustrated people have to become before they do their research. Unfortunately, dog owners still don’t know where to turn when their animals have serious behavior issues. Trainers are there to help you train your dog to perform certain behaviors and help you with your timing and improve your training skills. A educated trainer also knows his/her limits and has a network and will refer you when needed.

The sad truth is that this owner, like so many others, should have consulted with an expert specialist in veterinary behavior BEFORE spending “thousands”  of dollars elsewhere.

I am sorry you lost your faith, all I can say is that if you've actually already seen a veterinary behavior specialist you should go back to them. I am positive they will treat it as a follow up and continue to work with you until the problem is solved (that is what we do at the SPCA) . In most cases it takes about 2-3 visits ($350 initial visit  and $150 for recheck and not “thousands”).

If you have not seen a trained veterinary behavior specialist, however, then you have not given your dog the only qualified option necessary in this case and I strongly recommend you do so now. It is never too late. A veterinary specialists will  assess, diagnose, and treat any behavior problem and can determine if there is a medical underlying cause.