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My New Lab Barks a Lot After I Leave Home

Q: I recently adopted a five-year-old Labrador Retriever from the shelter. My neighbor tells me that he barks a lot after I leave for work. He also damaged the door and door jamb by scratching, and maybe biting those areas. Could he have separation anxiety?

A: That’s very astute! You may very well be correct. There is a higher incidence of separation anxiety among shelter dogs. The typical symptoms associated with separation anxiety are vocalization, destruction, and inappropriate elimination. Board Certified Behaviorists like Dr. Debra Horwitz label the disorder “separation-related syndrome” or “home-alone behaviors.”

Speak with your veterinarian or make an appointment with a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist to make sure that an accurate diagnosis is made.

The best way to confirm the diagnosis is to film your dog while he is home alone after you have left the home for at least 30 minutes. Underlying root causes include fear, panic, anxiety, and frustration.

Medications like fluoxetine, clomipramine, benzodiazepines, and trazodone can be helpful. A pheromone product called Adaptil may be useful in reducing anxiety. Medications without a behavioral modification plan are often unsuccessful.

By Dr. Frank Lavac, MS, DVM

Dr. Lavac can be reached by calling his office at 310-828-4587.

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