A lot of owner’s use the term “separation anxiety” to describe a dog that appears stressed when their owner isn’t present – whether it’s leaving the house or simply just leaving the room.
This stress is often represented in a more destructive manner, such as shredded toilet rolls, scratched up doors or maybe even a smelly little surprise left on the floor for you.
It’s worth noting that there are two form’s of separation anxiety in dogs. There’s “true” separation anxiety, but there’s also stimulated separation anxiety, which is more of a learned behaviour.
Stimulated Separation Anxiety
Let’s start with what exactly it means to have two types of separation anxiety.
Stimulated separation anxiety is usually caused by a dog’s lack of leadership and/or self control and is often a form of attention seeking. True separation anxiety is genuine stress that a dog feels in the absence of its owner.
In cases of stimulated separation anxiety, your dog knows it will receive attention if it does something naughty or destructive. Even being verbally reprimanded for this type of behaviour is rewarding, as it means the dog was noticed.
Because of this, there isn’t so much stress involved. It’s just bad behaviour. Methods to get around this behaviour isn’t too difficult to overcome and can involve the likes of spending more time in a crate (whether you’re home or not), consistent obedience training, correct amounts of exercise as well as a strong leadership.
Causes of Separation Anxiety
True separation anxiety isn’t as easy to overcome, and involves a lot more stress for your dog than a stimulated separation anxiety.
A lot of us actually may encourage separation anxiety without even realising. Making a huge fuss before leaving home or coming back can reward our dog’s concern with our absence. This provokes more stress each time we leave.
As puppies, we tend to take our dogs with us everywhere but there comes a lifestyle change as they get older where they need to be left alone a lot more often. This change can cause symptoms of separation anxiety.
Preventing Separation Anxiety
While there are specific drugs a vet can prescribe for your dog to calm their senses, it’s not a permanent solution or a cure. They’re more a temporary fix for the underlying problem.
It starts from being a puppy. When a pup is taken from its litter then it will start to cry when being left alone. While it’s tempting to go and sympathise, you’re actually rewarding this behaviour.
This type of behaviour shouldn’t be rewarded. Rather than rewarding this undesired behaviour, you should be encouraging your pup to be quiet and learn patience instead for increased periods of time.
When out with your dog, don’t be giving it constant attention either. Teach your dog to keep itself occupied with its own toys. Also teach your dog the boundaries of its environment, to gain respect for its environment and for others in it.
Following this simple advice will help you towards getting your dog over its separation anxiety.
Have you managed to help your own dog overcome its separation anxiety, or just have extra information to contribute? Let us know in the comments below.
Image credit: Mother Nature Network