Under enormous pressure: separation anxiety in the Great Dane

Dog owner's question

"Hi! My Great Dane, named Max, has a very hard time being left home alone. He is destructive and the neighbours are complaining more and more about his loud barking! What can I do?"

Answer from the vet

"Dear Enquirer!

First of all, I am so sorry that you and Max are going through this. Separation anxiety can be very stressful for both dogs and their owners, and Great Danes – known for their loyalty and affection for their owners – are particularly prone to this problem.

When dealing with separation anxiety, the most important thing to understand is that the dog is not acting out of 'revenge'!

Destructive behaviour and loud barking are symptoms of stress and anxiety.

The dog is simply unable to manage his emotions when he is alone.

One way to treat this is "separation tolerance training".

This is a process in which you gradually get the dog used to being alone, initially leaving him alone for very short periods.

For example, leave the dog alone for only a few minutes at first, then gradually increase this time.

When you return, don't make a big deal of your arrival or departure – the less dramatic these moments are, the less the dog will feel that something big is happening!

Another option is to use tools that help the dog calm down when he is alone.

This could include turning on music or reading books aloud so your dog doesn't feel completely alone.

In some cases, toys to relieve anxiety, such as Kong toys that you can pre-fill with his favourite treat, are also effective.

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In severe cases of separation anxiety, you may want to seek professional help.

Behaviour experts and dog psychologists are also trained to help owners and their dogs understand and manage these problems.

They can also develop an individual programme for Max!

Plus another important factor is to keep your dog physically and mentally occupied, especially before leaving him alone!

Great Danes are a large and energetic breed, so it's important that they get enough exercise and mental challenges too.

Try taking Max for a long walk or playing with him for a while before you leave home. This will also help your dog to be more exhausted and get some sleep while you're away.

Finally, if you think that Max's separation anxiety is so severe that these methods are not helping, you can also consult your vet.

Your vet can advise you on behavioural therapy techniques and possibly some medication that may help to manage Max's anxiety!

Treating separation anxiety can take time and you will need patience.

Max is not deliberately making your life difficult – he just needs help to cope with this stressful situation! Your love and support is the most important thing that can help him through this difficult time."