Archive for Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety is diagnosed in around 15% of behavioural cases. When left alone, most dogs find a familiar spot and go to sleep. However, a dog when suffering from separation anxiety will become extremely anxious. Not understanding where you or your family have gone or if you will ever return. The dog could exhibit behaviour which may include chewing, barking, salivating, urinating, defecating, vomiting or escape behaviour, such as chewing through walls, scratching through doors, breaking out of cages or trying to dig their way out. In some cases, the dog can become ill, stop eating, or suffer from depression or even hurt itself in its frenzy to escape.
Factors at the core of this problem include, genetics, early learning, lack of socialisation and owner behaviour. Your dog is a social, pack animal that relies on the others for individual protection by safety in numbers.
Dogs that lack confidence, due to over bonding, under socialisation, lack of communication and training or no knowledge of what is expected of them, mistreatment in the past, long confinement or even dogs that have been abandoned or rehomed are more likely to exhibit behaviour’s relating to separation anxiety.
Solution and Treatment
No long goodbyes. When it is time to leave, just leave. Do not say a big and drawn out “Good bye” to your dog. In fact, ignore your dog for five minutes before you go. Paying too much attention will make your dog feel more insecure when that attention is abruptly withdrawn.
Distractions are the key
Prepare a “Bye-Bye” bone. A hollow cheese or dried meat filled bone from the pet shop, or a Kong. Fill it with grated cheese, peanut butter, or other things your dog really likes. I have recently put together a recipe for Kongs and hollow bones you will need 4 or 5 of these bones which you can get from any pet shop. Make up the recipe then freeze in handy size dollops and give to the dog only when you leave, even if that absence initially is only minutes. Always give the bones frozen as it will last longer, and especially in young dogs will help to cool inflamed gums when teething. Teething can last until the dog is twelve to thirteen months old.
Put it away and only take it out when you leave each day. Place it near your dog just before you close the door. When you arrive home put the bone away. The bone only comes out when you leave. When it gets low then poke out the contents and refill. You are distracting your dog with something that he will find interesting enough to concentrate on and will ignore your leaving, he should appreciate the bone so much that he will look forward to it coming out instead of getting upset with your leaving.
Confining your dog during your times of absence has two positive results. First, a dog who is confined crate cannot do damage to your home. Secondly, a crate, when properly introduced, will act as a safe and comfortable den where the dog can relax. Limiting his movement also acts as an anxiety reducer for most dogs.
Exercise Your Dog
A dog that is lacking exercise is more likely to have stress and tension. Tiring a dog out with a long walk, run, or with play goes a long way in reducing stress.
Leave the Radio On
Tune a radio to a talk station; not music unless it is classical which most dogs fond soothing. Put it on in a room you are often in but not in the same room as the dog and close the door. The dog will hear the human voices from your room and may not feel so alone. Some clients tape record their own voices and play the recording rather than the radio program. Dogs know the sound of your voice. And remember, since the dog is most anxious just after you leave, therefore it need only be an hour long.
Build up a routine
The hardest time for dogs is immediately after you leave. Their anxious, frantic, and occasionally destructive behaviour generally happens inside the first hour. You need to modify your dog’s behaviour through reinforcement training and behaviour modification. Put your dog in his crate if you have crate trained, get ready to leave like normal then just leave. Come back after 2 minutes. Greet your dog calmly. If he is not showing anxiety reinforce this behaviour with a food treat he enjoys. Wait a few minutes and then repeat the exercise, this time remaining outside a few minutes longer. Continue practicing leaving and returning over the next couple of weeks, when you return, greet your dog after he has settled down before offering a cuddle or a treat.When you reach 30 minutes the length of time the dog is left can be increased by larger increments. Once the dog can be left alone for 1.5 hours, it can usually be left all day. Though I stress at this time the crate should be left open. No dog should be locked in a crate all day and no dog should be left alone all day every day
Leadership is Vital
When a dog has a strong consistent leader/controller of resources, it has a calming effect on him. He feels safe and taken care of. In the absence of a strong controller, your dog feels obligated to assume that position in the social hierarchy of the family pack. Since a leader must control all that goes on, his inability to control you leaving causes him stress and anxiety. They sometimes exhibit dominant behaviour to try to stop owners from leaving. Obedience training resource controlling and NILIF techniques are normally the best methods of establishing yourself as a beneficial and strong leader.
Consistency is the key.
You are responsible for providing food and shelter. You also have the responsibility of supplying an environment whereby the dog feels safe and secure. Leadership/Resource controlling plays a major part. Lack of consistency and over-bonding can be a cause and effect of separation anxiety. Though it must be said other factors may also play their part.
Sometimes you may need to get another dog for company and comfort for your pet, especially if the symptoms are very severe. Sometimes you may have to re-home the dog if your lifestyle and work commitments do not allow for a happy and contented pet.