Living With A Dog With Separation Anxiety
Whether it be feeling guilt for having to leave your dog alone, complaints from the neighbors that may lead to threats of eviction, or costly material harm to your home , adopting a dog who turns out to have separation anxiety can wreak serious havoc in your life.
And, after discovering that all the latest quick-fix products on the market and all the commonly-prescribed training tips dont work, you may end up feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to help your dog get better, and unable to leave your dog alone without suffering serious consequences.
In some cases, getting a second dog will provide a dog with separation anxiety the pack security they need to feel comfortable being left behind at home.
As a result, you may be forced to:
Dramatically change your daily routine in order to find ways to never leave your dog alone
Adopt another dog to provide company for your anxious dog for when no ones home
Rehome your dog or relinquish them to a shelter .
None of these options are ideal or possible for everyone, and the last one can cause real upset to both the dog and the human involved.
So, why is this behavior so confusing and difficult to resolve, even for seasoned professional dog trainers and behaviorists?
Your Dog Is Distressed While Home Alone
How To Help Your Border Collie Overcome Separation Anxiety
If your dogs separation anxiety is mild then there are some things that you can do to help them become more confident and independent.
If your Border Collie has moderate to severe separation anxiety it is recommended that you get help from a professional dog behaviorist. If you try and push your anxious dog too hard or in the wrong way even with the best of intentions it could make the situation worse.
Here are some tactics you can try if you would like to help your Collie be more independent and overcome their mild separation anxiety.
Start by working on basic commands and then level it up.
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What Is Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Although symptoms of separation anxiety present differently with every dog, the main reason for these destructive types of behavior is the same. By definition, separation anxiety indicates that your dog experiences a feeling of panic and stress in periods of time when theyre left alone.If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, theyll be petrified when youre not around them. And, in your absence, that fear and nervousness will make your pooch become destructive.
Peeing Or Pooping In The House Even Though Theyre House
Nobody likes coming home to a stinky surprise on the bed or mysteriously wet carpets. If your dog has been trained to do their business during walks or in the dog park, the fact they continue to go potty inside your home when youre not there might make you feel stumped. Well, its not their lack of obedience or intelligence that drives them to poop or pee in forbidden places. Anxiety pooping is a common problem for dogs with separation anxiety, so dont get mad at your pooch the next time this happens – it might be that they couldnt help themselves.
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What Should I Do If I Come Home To A Mess
If your dog has been anxious during your departure, and this has led to destruction or house soiling, then anything you do may increase your dogâs anxiety, making matters worse for future departures and it will not correct what has already been done. Therefore both punishment and excited greetings must be avoided. At homecomings, ignore your dog until she settles down . Your dog should soon learn that the faster she settles, the sooner she will get your attention.
How To Manage Or Reduce Your Dogs Destructive Chewing
Puppy TeethingThe desire to investigate interesting objects and the discomfort of teething motivate puppies to chew. Much like human infants, puppies go through a stage when they lose their baby teeth and experience pain as their adult teeth come in. This intensified chewing phase usually ends by six months of age. Some recommend giving puppies ice cubes, special dog toys that can be frozen or frozen wet washcloths to chew, which might help numb teething pain. Although puppies do need to chew on things, gentle guidance can teach your puppy to restrict chewing to appropriate objects, like his own toys.
Normal Chewing BehaviorChewing is a perfectly normal behavior for dogs of all ages. Both wild and domestic dogs spend hours chewing bones. This activity keeps their jaws strong and their teeth clean. Dogs love to chew on bones, sticks and just about anything else available. They chew for fun, they chew for stimulation, and they chew to relieve anxiety. While chewing behavior is normal, dogs sometimes direct their chewing behavior toward inappropriate items. Both puppies and adult dogs should have a variety of appropriate and attractive chew toys. However, just providing the right things to chew isnt enough to prevent inappropriate chewing. Dogs need to learn what is okay to chew and what is not. They need to be taught in a gentle, humane manner.
Lack of Exercise or Mental Stimulation
What NOT to Do
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How To Know Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
How To Know Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety? Separation anxiety can be cured, especially if the root of the problem is discovered. However, successfully curing separation anxiety is entirely dependent on the owner, dog, and the cause of the problem.
Can a dog be cured of separation anxiety? Separation anxiety can be cured, especially if the root of the problem is discovered. However, successfully curing separation anxiety is entirely dependent on the owner, dog, and the cause of the problem.
Deactivating Your Dogs Pack Instincts
Canine separation anxiety can be resolved by deactivating your dogs urge to follow you and training them to settle down and relax instead.
Doggie decompression requires using a gate, tether, or using an exercise pen to erect a barrier to help teach a dog or puppy to spend time by themselves.
This can be achieved with a process known as desensitization and counterconditioning, which targets changing how your dog responds to stimuli by exposing them to it at a sub-threshold level, meaning that the exposure happens at a tolerable intensity.
Within the context of resolving canine separation anxiety, this can be done by systematically exposing your dog to their triggers in brief, but tolerable increments that make it easy for your dog to respond by settling down.
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What Causes Dog Separation Anxiety
Dogs can develop separation anxiety for a number of reasons, and many of them are related to changes in the dogs life. These include:
Family changes: For example, when a member of the dogs family moves out of the home
Home changes: For example, when a dog is rehomed, or moves with their family to a new house
Routine changes: For example, when a pet parent starts a new job with longer hours
Some dogs respond to changes like these with relatively little anxiety for others, separation anxiety rears its stressed-out head. No one knows for sure why some dogs are more susceptible to separation anxiety than others. Even dogs whove been raised in supportive homes with plenty of attention and positive reinforcement can be affectedso dont blame yourself!
Some experts believe that a dogs genetics could play a role. Certain dog breeds appear to be more prone to separation anxiety than others, including:
But your dogs breed isnt the only factor it’s also not unusual for an individual dog from a “low risk” breed to develop separation anxiety.
Causes Of Separation Anxiety
The causes of separation anxiety can be diverse. As described earlier, it can be caused by insecure bonding in childhood years. Children, whose parents were alternating between being present and absent, can experience issues with this anxiety. Insecure bonding is characterized by emotional insecurity. You never know when someone is or is not available to support you. Oftentimes, insecure bonding in relationships is also characterized by attracting and pushing away.
If you have experienced such insecurity during your childhood years, it can be so that you feel insecure about your relationships at a later age. The thought that someone might leave you at any moment is constantly on your mind.
Another cause of separation anxiety is borderline. Borderline namely has the symptom of attracting and pushing people away. If you have borderline, it can be so that you really like someone at one moment, and at the next moment you are repulsed by this person. Relationships are very unstable with people with borderline.
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Get Your Dog Used To Being Home Alone Sooner Rather Than Later
One strategy for aiding your dog during times of severe anxiety is to work on getting them used to being alone sooner rather than later. If your pet has always spent their entire day with you, being left alone at first may be difficult. Dogs who are rescued from animal shelters often exhibit signs of separation anxiety. According to the ASPCA, a change in ownership is a common trigger for separation anxiety in dogs. As tempting as it may be to reassure your new pet by always being around, it is better to start preparing them to be separated from you for small amounts of time during the acclimation process, so they can get used to the idea rather than being shocked by a sudden separation. Rehoming is an anxiety-inducing time for new pets as they struggle to adapt to a new environment, so give your new family member time to adjust and try to be patient.
When Do I Need To Worry
Although it may be difficult to hear a child cry, remember that separation anxiety does have a positive aspect: It indicates that a healthy attachment has bonded a caregiver and child.
You should still watch your child to see if her separation anxiety appears extreme, says Julia F. Heberle, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. Dr. Heberle recommends analyzing the situation surrounding your childs feelings. Is there parental conflict, divorce, or something wrong with the child-care setting? If so, the symptoms of separation anxiety may be amplified. If a toddler is showing excessive symptoms, such as vomiting or unrelenting worry, contact your pediatrician.
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Set Your Dog Up For Success
There are a few different approaches to separation anxiety. But for that critical period when you are out of the house, the experts interviewed all emphasized the importance of creating a safe environment where your dog will feel relaxed and comfortable.
What exactly this environment looks like is highly situational, but Dodman recommends a confined space with an open crate they can go into if they want. When creating this environment, he also says to think of the five senses.
For taste, use food puzzles or toys stuffed with high value treats, like peanut butter, liver, or frozen wet food so that it becomes a dog lollipop. Smell has some overlap with taste, and Dodman and Loyer both suggest hiding treats for them to discover like a scavenger hunt. Another idea from Dodman is to enrich a toy with an engaging smell like anise, vanilla, or deer urine “if you can stomach it.”
For vision, turn on the TV and give them access to a window, perhaps adorned with a bird feeder. Sound could be from the TV, or talk radio, as well as music designed specifically for dogs. Lastly, make sure your dog has a cozy bed and soft comforts. The idea, said Dodman, is to try and make it fun for them. “When you leave it’s party time.” There’s also a ton of YouTube videos specifically made for relaxing dogs.
Above all, remember the adage, “a tired dog is a good dog.” Try and make sure your dog gets some exercise before you leave so they’re mentally and physically calmer.
Help Your Dog & Regain Your Freedom In 8
Our program, the Canine Separation Anxiety Cure , is an easy-to-follow, multi-phase, training program that conditions a dog to settle down and relax whenever they cant see or follow you somewhere.
We have field tested this program with a variety of breeds and ages of dogs, and feel confident saying its one of the most effective methods for solving dog separation anxiety in existence today!
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Is It Separation Anxiety Or Something Else
One of the main ways of distinguishing between separation-related behaviour and other behavioural disorders with similar signs is that the behaviour is in response to you leaving the house and is displayed soon after you leave. It normally starts within 30 minutes, and often, within the first few minutes.
Even if you think your dog is happy to be left alone, check every once in a while for ‘hidden’ signs that your dog may be distressed by filming your pet while you’re out.
If you believe your dog may have separation anxiety, read our advice on how to teach your dog that it¿s ok to be left alone.
Why Punishment Wont Help
It is natural for owners to be angry or disappointed if they return to find damage to their home, mess in the house or annoyed neighbours. Sensing that their owners are upset with them, many dogs will display appeasement behaviour their ears may go flat, their body may be lowered and their tail may go between their legs. Some will look away and narrowing their eyes, as if they are cringing .
Appeasement behaviour is often misinterpreted as guilt, and mistakenly some owners believe the dog knows what they have done is wrong. They may feel that any damage caused or mess in the house has been done on purpose or out of spite for being left alone. Unfortunately, this may mean that the dog is punished in an attempt to stop the behaviour.
Dogs that look guilty are doing nothing more than responding to an owners disappointment, upset or anger and it is their way of diffusing tension in response to feeling threatened. Some dogs will also do this if they think they are about to be told off if they have been so in the past.
Any punishment given on returning home wont help stop the problem. Dogs associate punishment with what they are doing at that moment in time and so a dog will not link the telling off with their actions before their owner came home, even if they are taken over to the scene of the crime. It is not that they cannot remember what happened they just wont be able to make a connection between the punishment and something they did hours ago.
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What Should I Do If My Dog Displays Separation Anxiety Signs
- Desensitizing her to leaving cues Your pet learns quickly that you are preparing to leave, when you put on your shoes, and pick up your keys. Perform these activities often without leaving, so your pet dissociates these cues with being left alone.
- Ignoring your dog when you return home Although ignoring your pet may seem counter-intuitive, if you fuss over your dog when you return home, you portray the impression that reuniting is a wonderful end to her solitude.
- Saving high-value treats and toys for when you leave Your pets favorite toys and treats, such as a food puzzle, or peanut butter-filled Kong, will distract her while you leave, and keep her mind off your absence.
- Ensuring she gets adequate exercise A tired pet is a happy pet, and if your furry friend receives plenty of physical and mental exercise, she may be too worn out to stress while you are gone.
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Understand The Root Of Your Dogs Anxiety
First and foremost, you need to understand the root of your pets anxiety. While dogs experience many different forms of anxiety, one of the easiest ways to tell if your dog has separation anxiety is by looking at their symptoms. For example, if your pet looks anxious or panicky when they are left alone in a specific area or room, they may be suffering from separation anxiety. Destructive behaviors, such as chewing or marking, can be symptoms of separation anxiety as well.
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