Separation Anxiety in Dogs!
It is a very cloudy afternoon here in sunny Florida and Gram and I are having a serious discussion about dogs and some of their problems. Separation anxiety seems to be a very serious problem with some dogs and so we decided to do an article on that. We hope you enjoy it and learn something should your dog have this problem.
Being alone is not something we all enjoy, most of us enjoy the company of others and/or our pets. But being alone for the most part does not bring on an anxiety attack in most humans. However, in some dogs being alone is a fate worse than death?
It is not really known what causes separation anxiety in dogs, it could be genetics, breeding, a change in the household or even a medical condition. It is said that at least 14 percent of dogs show some sort of symptoms when getting routine physical check ups and that when it comes to behavioral problems, separation anxiety moves the number up to 40 percent. This shows that almost half of the dogs with behavioral problems are suffering from some sort of separation anxiety.
Dogs are normally social animals, in the wild they move in packs, in our civilization we humans make up the pack and dogs need their humans to be happy.
What are some of the signs of separation anxiety? Body language is one sign, dogs who do not like to be alone will show signs of stress, panic and some will start pacing frantically when they see signs that you are getting ready to leave. While outward signs may not be visible before your leave, you may encounter chewed up carpet, window sills, scratched doors, holes dug in the yard and/or constant barking or whining when you get home. In some cases the best-trained housebroken dog may start to use the house as its bathroom.
No, the dog is not trying to get even with you for leaving it, the dog is just trying to find someway to get to you and/or showing its distress at being left alone.
Many dogs usually get used to being alone while others go into a totally panic-stricken mode. The fear of you not coming back is up most in its mind.
So how do you overcome this condition? There are many ways you can try and if they do not work it is recommended that you see an animal behaviorist for help. However, there are things you can try first.
The best thing you can do when you first get a puppy or a young dog is to crate train it. I, for one, never felt that crates were the proper things for a dog, however, as they say you get older and wiser and now I see the benefit of crate training. Granted there are some dogs that will panic if put in a crate, but they are the exceptions. If you start as a puppy training the dog to go into the crate (with toys and treats) when you have to leave or are not able to keep an eye on it, you have won most of the battle right there.
Why? Simply because the puppy will associate you coming back once it is in it and most dogs feel secure in a safe den like atmosphere. But suppose your dog is not crate trained, now what do you do?
The most important thing is do not make a big deal about leaving. Low key departures are the mode of the day, just like homecomings should also be low key, save the big fusses for when the dog follows a command or does a great trick.
Many of us feel so guilty about leaving our pet we go into our baby talk routine and we make a big fuss. This gets the dog all excited and when we walk out the door, the dog gets a big let down and wonders what happened to mom or dad.
If you have been guilty of this and then come home wondering why Fido has made a mess, it is time to change. The first thing to do is to start practicing quick departures and returns with no fuss or baby talk. Gather up your stuff and simply walk out the door and then within 5 minutes or so come back in.
Start this training when you have some time to do it several times during the day, (like on a long weekend) then the next day or so make the time away from the house longer and do this several times. Do it with no fuss when you leave and no fuss when you come back in. I know it is hard not to fuss when you come home, but keep it very low key with very little excitement.
I have a friend who has a dog that was very upset if she even took a minute to take out the garbage. She finally came upon this secret, before she went out the door she made the dog do its “cookie dance” and gave him several cookies before leaving the house, his interest in the cookies finally took away his interest in her leaving. The end result was no barking and scratching at the door and the house stayed in tact while she was at work.
Another great idea is to have a Kong toy filled with peanut butter or treats to keep the dog occupied for a good while and get you off its mind.
A walk before you leave for work is also a good way to stop trouble. A tired dog is a good dog and if you can make the time to exercise the dog before you leave, you are doing two wonderful things, the dog gets tired and you get some great exercise.
Another interesting technique is to discourage clinging. Some dogs tend to follow us around every second we are in the house this is nice, I agree. But, if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety it is not good. Begin to train your dog to sit-stay or down-stay in one room while you are in another. When you return to the room your dog is in praise him/her quietly, this will reinforce the idea that you can leave and you will return.
I hope that this article has given you some ideas on helping your dog with separation anxiety. Crate training at an early age is really good thing to do. Practicing gradual departures, while keeping them low key really works, as does leaving your dog with some treats to keep its mind off you leaving.
I have found the more casual you are about leaving your pet, the less stress the dog feels, you know you are coming back, so why make a big fuss about going. Dogs do not understand our language and our anxiety about leaving them is transferred to the dog by the tone of our voice and our actions. So you my dear friend, remain calm and cool, leave quietly, leave a few treats and just maybe your pet will follow your example.
If all else fails, talk to your vet as there are medications that can help control the anxiety, while you are going through the training process and/or the vet may suggest a behaviorist that can help.
Well, that is it for the day, Gram and I hope this article has been of benefit, until next time I remain