Separation anxiety is a fairly common problem in the city. Your dog will become stressed when you leave your house or when your about to leave. The photo above is how my dog is when I leave the house. As you can see he is not very concerned. And that´s how you want your dog to be when you leave the house: Nice and relaxed.
Some of the most common symptoms of separation anxiety are: excessive salivating, urinating/defecating, barking, howling, whining, scratching walls, digging, destructive behavior, escaping, pacing. Sometimes it can cause self injury.
Causes of dog separation anxiety.
This can happen because of a change in residence, change of parent or a sudden absence of a family member. It can also be developed through time with dogs that were never taught to be left alone.
Separation anxiety is easy to understand and to solve if you understand some basic concepts of dog and human psychology. There are basically two main reasons why this can happen:
- Your relationship with your dog. This is the most important one. If your dog thinks he or she is in control of the household or of you, then you are in trouble. What your pup is telling you is not to leave the house, but you leave anyways. Imagine you tell your 5 year old not to leave the house, but she leaves anyways and manages to lock you in the house. Now she is running around the street with cars coming in and out. Who do you think is going to have anxiety? You or your 5 year old? Of course you. Why? Because you are the parent and you are in charge. If your relationship with your dog is upside down, basically what´s happening in your pup´s mind is that you are the rebellious teenager that is leaving the house without his or her consent. This causes anxiety. You can confine the body in a crate, in a room or in the garden, but if you don’t convince the mind your pup will go crazy. A lot of cases of separation anxiety they simply disappear when you change the relationship. It happens fast and the change is dramatic. It´s like taking a big heavy load out of your pup´s back.They simply relax and enjoy life. I´ve seen it many times myself.
- Your pup´s state of mind. Separation anxiety can still happen even when you know 100% sure that you are the one in control of the household or the parent in the relationship. What happens in this case is that your dog gets anxious because you are LEAVING. He/she escalates and gets out of control. In his/her mind when you LEAVE means you are not coming back. Wether you come back or not its not important at that moment, because dogs live in the present. There is a fine line where your pup will escalate or will calm down. Your ability to prevent your dog from escalating before he/she gets out of control or anxious is key. Success is NOT how long you can go out of your house until your pup barks or get anxious. Success is going out of your house with your dog being calm and coming back while your pup is calm. Even if it´s for 5 seconds. If your pup can be calm for 5 seconds he/she can be calm for 5 hours. It´s a matter of working on duration.
Note: It´s very important to know that if you don´t have your relationship with your pup clear nothing will work.
© Gabriel Riesco, Fairfield CT, November 2017