Dog separation anxiety can be very difficult to treat. It is also one of the most common problems that many dogs develop.
Dogs are social animals and no dog likes to be left alone for long stretches of time, but some dogs do a lot worse than others and these are the dogs that are most prone to separation anxiety.
It's a type of anxiety disorder, and can be defined as a state of intense panic brought on whenever the dog is separated from its owner for any length of time - it can be from just a few minutes or more, though this length of time may vary from dog to dog.
An example of this might be whenever you leave for work in the morning. After you leave your dog is thrown into a state of nervous anxiety which intensifies extremely quickly.
- Did you know that neglect is the number one cause of separation anxiety for dogs? It's true. If you're absent much more than you're present in your dogs life, separation anxiety is pretty much inevitable. Your dog needs your company, affection, and attention in order to be happy and content.
- Some breeds are genetically predisposed towards anxiety and insecurity, which is something you should consider when deciding which breed you're going to get. A few of these breeds include Weimaraners, Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, and Airedales
- A significant proportion of dogs from shelters develop separation anxiety. Most of these "shelter dogs" have undergone significant trauma in their lives and have little trust that their new owner (you) isn't going to pull the same trick.
- Dogs that were separated from their mothers and siblings way too early have been identified as being especially prone to separation anxiety. Dogs are highly attuned to our body language and can easily pick up on our signals no matter how much we may try to hide them. Your dog will easily learn to tell when you're about to leave (she'll hear keys jingling, see you putting on your outdoor clothes, etc) and will then become anxious.
The symptoms of dog separation anxiety are pretty distinctive - your dog might follow you from room to room, whine a lot, tremble uncontrollably, or cry. She might bark uncontrollably, scratch or dig at the windows or doors or maybe even chew inappropriate items. Usually, once you've left, their anxious behavior will rapidly increase and usually peak within a half an hour or so of you actually leaving.
Upon your return, usually your dog will be excessively excited for a long period of time. This extended greeting is often misunderstood. Without realizing that such a greeting actually signifies the presence of separation anxiety, some owners actually encourage their dog to get more and more excited upon their return.
If you're doing this, please stop.
I realize how tempting it is to do, and it does seem harmless – after all, your dog is so happy to see you - but in actuality, whenever you do this you're just validating your dogs belief that your return is the high point of the day and that this is all acceptable behavior - destruction and all.
When it's time for you to leave later, her now-exaggerated happiness at your return is under threat and your dog will get even more unhappy when you walk out that door again - escalating the process over and over if you don't learn to control it right away. Here are a few do's and dont's.
• My first, and favorite, suggestion would be for you to exercise the heck out of your dog before you leave. The longer you expect to be away, the more exercise you should give your dog before you leave. Really tire it out and and you'll have less separation anxiety issues.
• When you leave, put the radio on a soothing station in a low volume featuring lots of talk or calming music. It may give your dog the feeling that it has company.
• If at all possible, supply your dog with a view - many times, if your dog can see the world going by, that's the next best thing to being out and about in it.
• Really important tip: practice getting ready to go and leaving.
First, jingle your keys about, put on your coat, get your bags and open
the door. Then, without leaving, sit back down and don't go anywhere.
Try this for a few times until your dog is not reacting any more to this exercise. Afterward, give her a treat and lavish praise for being so brave. Next, practice the same procedure as above actually walking out the door, and returning immediately. Do this until theres no reaction also. Gradually, and this is the important issue here, work up to the point until you're able to leave the house with no signs of stress from her.
• Give your dog a couple of marrow bones from the butcher to keep her happy and occupied, and which will also act as a distraction for your departure.
• Do not act overtly sympathetic whenever your dog cries as you're leaving.
Believe it or not, trying to soothe or comfort your dog by petting her as you're leaving is actually one of the worst things you can do!
This type of action actually validates your dogs actions that it is okay when she’s upset and for your dog to act up when you leave! Definitely not the signal you want to send to your dog.
I hope that this information about dog separation anxiety is helpful to you if you have an anxious dog of your own.
You gonna bark all day little doggy, or are you gonna bite?" - Mr. Blonde "Reservoir Dogs"
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