‘Separation anxiety’ is a physiological word which describes the stress or fear shown by an individual when separated from another individual. Most of the house owners complaints about their pet being disruptive or having some behavioural changes when they are about to leave to some place, or in their absence for several days.
Some of them may urinate, bark, howl or even try to escape from their owner and some of them will try to injure themselves by hitting the exit points such as the door, windows etc. This is mainly due to anxiety syndrome in dogs or the distress caused to them when their most loved ones leave them alone which is often referred to as ‘Separation Anxiety in dogs’. It is similar to what we experience when one of the most lovable persons leaves us or about to leave us.It means your pet is caring us like one of their best friends whom he can have most love and comfort.
This article will make you aware mainly following things
- Main causes of Separation anxiety in dogs
- Different types of Separation anxieties in dogs
- Preventive measure to be taken to avoid this Anxiety Syndrome
- How to train and avoid this Anxiety Syndrome
- Main Causes of Anxiety Syndrome
Main Causes of Anxiety Syndrome
Moving on to main causes of Anxiety Syndrome, we can say first and foremost that There is no conclusive evidence showing exactly what causes the dog this separation anxiety, but studies showed us that separation anxiety will be more developed in a dog which is adopted from shelters rather than those kept from childhood.
It’s mainly when a companionship between dog and its primary pet caretaker is disrupted. Mainly when his caretaker is heading out from your home. Every Time when we go away leaving our dog alone in home they may show symptoms like excessive barking, whining, salivation, destroying items in homes, scratching at walls, floors and doors and trying to escape from room.
Following are the main points which are to be noted when you are looking for the causes of anxiety in dogs.
- Mainly when the constant companionship between the owner and his pet is left off for the first time.
- When the dog is never left alone in the home for long periods of time, or when
- Maybe because of some person which the dog is uncomfortable regularly visits your home or when a dog is uncomfortable or worried about something inside the home.
- When an animal companion dies which means either the another dog who is very close to him or maybe other species such as birds, cats etc.
- Feeling boredom, This is the main cause as when dog is left alone and has nothing to do he feels boredom and start to do some abnormal things such as howl, chew the chairs, clothes that his companion wore or even try to escape to exit points.
- Sometimes when a they are moved to a new residence they may need some time to adopt the new surroundings which maybe also cause these anxiety syndromes.
- Change is schedule is the most important point to be noted. When his guardian or caretaker isn’t arrived on a regular schedule maybe an hour or two late then dogs began to show distress and will start to show the symptoms of anxiety by howling.
As of now you got some knowledge about what ‘Anxiety syndrome’ is and also the main causes of it. Now we can check out different types of anxiety syndromes that may affect your dogs.
Anxiety syndromes can be classified into two types
- Simulated Anxiety Syndrome – Mainly for getting attentions from the owner.
- True dog Anxiety Syndrome – A real stress caused when an owner leaves.
True separation anxiety is the real stress caused by the owner leaving whereas Simulated is a learned behaviour. Severe cases of true separation anxiety are difficult to overcome, even for a pack leader. In Simulated behaviour, there is no stress and the dog does it to get attention from his owner. It is often unknowingly encouraged by the owners.
In this scenario, there is no stress involved when an owner leaves him it’s just misbehaviour. Simulated behaviours are very easy to overcome with a gradual approach, providing consistent obedience training ,proper amounts of exercise, increase the time, strong leadership and slowly increasing the time spent in a crate(when you are at home as well as away).
So When you are about to leave home please do make aware of the causes and help them to overcome it with gradual training as well as toys that can help them to avoid their loneliness. In next section, we will explain some of the preventive measures as well as training methods to be taken to overcome it and toys you can give them when you are about to leave.
Preventive Measures to be taken to avoid Separation Anxiety
If you consult a vest they may prescribe the drugs which may calm the senses a little. But remember one thing it’s not a permanent cure. We can see it as a temporary fix which will provide the supporting mechanism in assisting pet owner in rehabilitating the dog. We need to treat the root cause.
Fixing separation anxiety is very hard, and our biggest mistake is that we will get much frustrated in dog destructive behaviour. Remember that he is not doing it intentionally- he is panicked about his own survival without you, his pack, there to protect him.
Most efficient way is that we should start the training from the moment we get the puppy. The initial phase is so important because the puppy is taken away from its pack. For the puppy, it’s a big change in his life as he is alone for the first time. What happens is that when puppy cries we will take him out of the crate and show sympathy. So for him his crying is rewarded and as a result reward behaviour is developed.
Points you must take care off, when you get a puppy .
- What we have to do is to teach our puppy to relax and be quiet for a period of time. We need to reward puppy’s calmness and patience rather than his crying.
- Don’t think that it’s your job to entertain your puppy all the time. When you are with the puppy should not interact him with all the time. Give him the toys to play and let him learn to entertain himself. Make your puppy independent from the beginning so he will confident alone.
- Make the puppy comfortable in his crate. Allow the puppy to explore under supervision and to learn the limits and the boundaries of his environment. Eventually, he will accept his crate and there will be no uneasiness.
Some of the points which are well noteworthy for tackling the syndrome and make your dog feel that he is not much isolated from you.
- Give proper and regular exercise to your dog before you leave. As studies show that a tired dog is less destructive and is less anxious. End the sessions 20-30 mins before you go so that he has time to settle down.
- Before you go, Give him a toy of Kong or any other, mainly done to take his mind off that your departure is imminent.
- Make your departure calm and emotionless. As if you try to hug a dog or kiss him before you go then there will be feeling on him that he is going to abandon him, so if he even tries to get excited by jumping or hugging when you are about to leave, don’t look back Just ignore it.
- Make your departure unpredictable. As you know when it’s becomes unpredictable he won’t show much anxiety or doesn’t have stress as he would think like it’s a normal routine and you will return in some time.
- Use safe cue such as “I will be back” only when u know that you will return soon (mainly time which your dog can tolerate with your absence).
- If you are borrowing a dog from your relative or friend then please make sure that dog is calm, stable and its compatible with your routines.
- Try to use comfort zone plugins and sprays in his environment to help ease his anxiety.
- Finally, consult a professional dog behaviour trainer to ensure that you are on the right track to tackle this syndrome and explore the new possibilities for it and to maximise to efforts.
Importance of Obedience Training and Discipline
If you have a dog with separation anxiety, the first thing to do is figure out exactly what triggers that anxiety. Is your dog fine as long as a certain family pet is home, but unbearably anxious when that pet goes to the vet? Is your dog content if your spouse is home even when you leave? Is your dog content as long as there is some human in the area, even if it’s not a member of your family? Before you start treating the separation anxiety, first figure out what situations cause it. We can call each situation as a trigger.
Triggers mainly consist of different situations where your pet reacts, it maybe your sudden departure from home, maybe some of your movements or your behaviours, which usually make your pet little distracted. So you have to first identify these triggers and then you can move on to next stage.
After identifying the triggers, for each identified trigger, go through the following process at a time when there are no plans for you (or the person/animal involved) to leave the house:
- Try to find out exactly when your dog loses its calmness.
- If you feel dog is going to lose its calmness , take a small step back Repeat the trigger between one and three times, depending on what your dog can handle. If your dog responds to the trigger in stressfully after one or two times then do not try that trigger for the third time. Just walk away and just do the things you normally do.
So let’s start with the process if your dog is very calm about the pre-departure try to combine the triggers. You must combine to so that it have a random order at first and then move to proper order. Normally triggers like putting your socks, shoes or even getting your keys etc and then do your normal stuff so that dog will be used with such activities and see it as normal.
So try with triggers randomly and make sure that dogs stay calm and cool. Now if your dogs are used with the pre-departure trigger then it is now time to play with the actual departure trigger. You can start the following triggers now.
- First Take a step toward the door, and then move back.
- Then Take two steps toward the door, and then move back.
Repeat, the steps and incease the number gradually, until number of steps required to reach the door, and step back while your dog remains calm. Once your dog remains calm in that process the start the following at that point:
- Step toward the door, and then lift your hand toward the doorknob. Drop your hand, but stay where you are, then reach toward the doorknob again.
- A step toward the door and actually touch the doorknob, dropping your hand afterward.
Step toward the door and turn the doorknob half an inch, releasing the doorknob and dropping your hand afterward. Repeat, with appropriate increases, until you can turn the doorknob all the way so that the door unlatches while your dog remains calm. Do not actually open the door. Then, add the following:
- Open the door an inch, and then shut it.
- Open the door two inches, and then shut it.
Repeat, with appropriate increases, until you can stand by the door with the door wide open while your dog remains calm. You get the idea, so here’s shorthand for the next few steps.
- Step gradually into the doorway, and then step back indoors.
- Step gradually through and past the doorway, and then step back indoors.
- Close the door behind you gradually, immediately reopening it and walking back indoors.
So once a dog is comfortable and calm with your movements. That is just getting out of door locking the door, then start the next trigger which is pausing. Try to not get back for a few seconds. then check whether the dog is starting to feel stress. come back as normal after few minutes. Increase this trigger time gradually in the process.
If you are a success in staying outside house for a minute with your dog maintains its calmness now it’s time to practice door lock. Just lock the door and stay there for a minute or two. Try to get int after a minute and gradually increase the time of stay after locking the door by times.
Practice this training until you dog remains calms for around 30 minutes then your dog can definitely handle longer absence time. Nevertheless, it’s best to build up duration by about 10 or 15 minutes at a time until you are sure you can remain outside for two, three, or four hours while your dog remains calm.
Separation anxiety can be cured, sometimes it will be fairly easy other times it may take time. You should be patient and continue training the dog. Exercise, obedience, lifestyle training, leadership, rules, boundaries and moods are necessary for a balanced dog. Thus, your dog will be stress-free and will be in a good mood.