A commonly used phrase used to describe the appearance of a stressed dog when the owner leaves the room or house is separation anxiety. So, what exactly is separation anxiety? This behavior is defined through symptoms of excessive salivation, barking, whining, destroying items in the home, scratching at walls, doors, and floors, and trying to escape from the crate or room. If this sounds like something your furry, four-legged friend may be experiencing, keep reading.
A Dog’s AnxietyThere is true separation anxiety and then a learned behavior that your dog may exhibit that may appear to be separation anxiety. What is the difference?
- Simulated – this occurs when a dog lacks leadership and self-control
- True – true stress is experienced during the owner’s absence
Simulated Separation AnxietyDuring this type of anxiety, a dog knows that he will get attention if he acts badly. Sometimes a dog that being reprimanded for such behavior is rewarding because he gets noticed. Negative attention can be a reward for some cases, especially when the owner is unaware that there are certain needs of the dog that is going unmet. This becomes a case of no stress, just bad behavior. This type of behavior is easy to overcome using a gradual approach, where an increase in time spent in a crate (when you are both home and away), consistent obedience training, proper exercise time, and strong leadership.
CausesOftentimes, dog separation anxiety is unknowingly encouraged by the owner. People tend to make a big deal when leaving or coming home. When doing this, we reward the dog’s concern regarding our absence and therefore provokes in him even more stress every time we leave.
Let’s face it. We love our dogs and want them to go everywhere with us and when our dogs are puppies, we tend to do just that! Then, when we do leave them home alone, we don’t realize that our furry friend not only wants but needs to be with us. We have become their source of confidence and security. In other words, we have become their pack.
Changes in routine can also create these symptoms as well, but destruction and stress can also be created through boredom or lack of exercise. Each breed is born with natural instincts such as:
- Terriers are born to dig.
- Retrievers are born to carry.
- Protection breeds are born to protect.
So, there are times when we hold our pets back from their natural instincts rather than to nurture them. In these cases, we must make sure that we provide our canine with exercise, discipline, and affection.
PreventionYour vet can prescribe drugs in order to help calm your dog’s senses a bit. But, this is not a cure. Drugs only provide support in order to assist the owner in rehabilitating the dog. Basically, drugs are only a temporary fix and the owner will need to treat the cause of anxiety.
This starts the moment you get a puppy. Usually, a puppy who has been taken from his litter will cry when left alone. This is a huge change for the pup because they are no longer part of the pack they were born with. When he cries, what does the owner usually do? Picks the pup up and shows sympathy which is a reward for the crying. Only reward behavior that you desire in your dog.
Right from the beginning we need to teach our dog to be quite and to settle down for increasing periods of time. The teaching of patience and calmness. These are the behaviors that should be rewarded. Your pup needs to discover that he can entertain himself and doesn’t always need you to do the entertaining. This will help tremendously in calming the anxiety in your dog.