Separation anxiety in dogs can confuse you as the owner. Every time you leave the home, your dog begins barking frantically and scratching at the door. Every time you pick up your keys and put on your coat your pooch will start becoming uncontrollable. While your gone your dog will chew on the furniture, pee on your carpet, poop in your shoes, destroy your indoor plants, tear your drapes, dig holes in the back yard – the list goes on and on and on.
Not only is this frustrating, it can affect your life immensely. You may not be able to go on vacation or leave the house unattended except during work hours without worrying about your dog tearing up the place or being lonely. Unless you can find someone to dog-sit, then your life is literally revolving around your pet and that is unacceptable.
So, what do you do about separation anxiety in your dog? The first step is to understand the two primary manifestations of separation anxiety.
1) Anxiousness: This behavior manifests itself through whining, howling, fast-paced breathing and snorting as well as uncontrollable spinning. Another key trait of anxiousness is excessive chewing – on EVERYTHING. Pacing along a fence line or up and down a hallway or near your windows are other good examples of anxiousness.
2) Insecurity: This kind of separation anxiety in dogs usually manifests itself through peeing and pooping on the floor while you’re gone – although this behavior is not reserved purely for the insecure dog with separation anxiety (as in the case with a dominant dog, who will continually “mark” its territory through urination) it is the primary trait. For example, if you are putting on your coat and getting ready to leave and your dog automatically pees on the floor – it’s insecure. Another sign of this is when your dog curls its head around to its behind while your getting ready to walk out the door so it looks like a ‘U’ shape.
Now that you understand these two primary factors of separation anxiety in dogs, the next step is to fix it, but how do you do that?
First of all – dogs are not initially prone to separation anxiety. Instead, they become anxious and insecure due to how you as the owner treat your dog. The worst mistake you can make as an owner is to consider your dog as your best friend, your baby or your equal companion. No matter what breed of dog you own, even mutts, the fact remains that dogs are Man’s best friend because they perform a service for humans and humans reward the dogs with food, shelter and survival.
Because of this simple fact, dogs have developed an amazing ability to observe us humans. They know how we are feeling due to our tone of voice and our body language and the energy that we project. By simply observing us they learn how to control us. In order to get what they want – which is food, attention and exercise they will manipulate us. They’re very good at it. The problem is that you, as the owner, too easily gives in to your dog because of your feelings, but when it comes to dogs feelings are irrelevant – there is only leader and follower.
You cannot attribute human feelings to dogs – dogs don’t feel anything. Dogs want to be told what to do and how to do it. Your dog is the follower. You are the leader. When you begin catering to the dog, then the dog takes on an unwanted role – the leader.
Many people, when they get a puppy or even an adult dog, are more concerned with how cute the dog is. Most people, when they get a dog, want some kind of companion, something to fill a void. However, dogs only see humans as weak when they are thinking, “you’re so cute” or “I feel sorry for you”.
What does this have to do with separation anxiety in dogs? Everything. Here are a few scenarios that can cause separation anxiety in dogs:
– You let your dog sleep with you at night
– When you get home, you immediately pet your dog, greet it, feed it and cuddle with it
– You never correct your dog because you think it’s “mean”, because you think you’re going to hurt your dog physically or hurt your dog’s feelings or because your dog is just so “cute”. Also, even though you may attempt to control your dog, you do it inconsistently and in a weak manner.
– You don’t exercise your dog for at least 45 minutes a day
These simple actions on behalf of you as the owner can cause your dog extreme separation anxiety. The only way to solve it is to be the leader. Never let your dog sleep with you at night, instead buy your dog a doggie bed or crate and let it sleep in the hallway.
When you get home from work or from being out for the day and your dog comes bounding up to you excitedly, do not pet your dog, pick it up, feed it and cuddle with it. Instead, make your dog sit and calm down. Ignore your dog completely until it has retreated away in a calm manner. Then, and only then, are you allowed to give affection. This makes your dog less attached to you and more dependent upon itself.
Whenever your dog exhibits what you deem as bad behavior, correct it EVERY TIME, not just sometimes and not just when you get annoyed. You need to remain calm whenever you correct your dog and never do it when you’re angry or tired.
Above all – exercise your dog. Exercise is the most important part of decreasing separation anxiety in your dog, especially with chewing, peeing, pooping and barking. Dogs need to walk just like fish need to swim and birds need fly. The problem with many dog owners is that they just don’t feel like exercising their dog properly. And, unlike people, dogs can’t turn to cigarettes, drugs and alcohol to quench their desires, so they start chewing, barking, howling and developing separation anxiety in order to get out their pent-up energy.
No matter what kind of dog you have, a brisk 45-minute walk every day, without one day missed, will help cure your dog of separation anxiety. As Caesar Milan “The Dog Whisperer” always stresses, “Exercise, discipline and affection – in THAT order”. You have to exercise your dog, and then you have to make your dog do something in order to deserve your affection which can be food, petting, cuddling or anything else. If your dog is tired and disciplined and doesn’t have any excess energy built up, then it will not have separation anxiety.
Instead of wondering whether or not your dog is suffering from separation anxiety and what to do about it, start looking at yourself. Chances are, you’re paying too much attention to your dog, not giving your dog enough exercise and rewarding your dog for bad behavior without any discipline.