Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Canine Separation Anxiety

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Lonely Dogs Become Anxious Dogs The hectic pace of living means that many of us work full time and are away from the home most of the day.

If you have taken time off work to be with your puppy, you will soon have to leave the dog on its own.

Separation anxiety in dogs is the fear or dislike of isolation, which results in undesirable behaviour. It is one of the most common causes of canine behavioural problems and we at K9Obedience believe this is much to do with the modern way of taking puppies so early away from their littermates, as well as the added pace of life these days causing owners to spend more time away from the dog before it has fully bonded and gained its confidence.

On the birth of the puppy, he became attached to his mother and his littermates, now he is attached to you. This trusting relationship is the foundation of the growing bond between you both. If your dog is showing separation anxiety it is possibly because he is overly dependant on you.

The results of separation anxiety include soiling, destructive behaviour, excessive barking, hyperactivity or depression. In severe cases the dog will self-mutilate. Excessive licking or chewing is also an early sign of separation anxiety.

The difference between separation anxiety and bad behaviour is that with dogs suffering from anxiety, it only occurs when the owner is away. This often happens in the case of rescue dogs. They have at last found a secure, loving owner and are reluctant to be away from them. Sometimes the anxiety occurs when a puppy has been left on its own for long periods.

The first rule when dealing with separation anxiety is that despite any destruction the dog has made, you must NOT show anger. You will only create a bigger problem. Any punishment will only be counter productive.

The best idea is to teach the dog that he can trust you to come back to him so that he learns that he needs have no worries related to your absence or your return home.

Try to establish how and when the problem began. It could be that you have had a change in your lifestyle, perhaps one of the family members has left the home, or maybe you have had a change in your working day that has resulted in you being away from home more often. The dog picks up on this and becomes anxious that in turn leads to destructive behaviour.

Establish whether you can put your dog in a sit stay and leave the room. Reward him if he stays quietly. If he does not stay but follows you around then try again but for a shorter distance, then reward.
We all subconsciously develop routines as we leave the house. Do you go to the loo, pick up your keys or briefcase, then leave? Change your routine as the dog will recognise these routines and will have established a learning pattern accordingly. You need to change that pattern, by doing something different.

Ideas that work are, turning on the radio, leaving through another door, (some owners actually leave via a window, funny, but it works with some dogs to disassociate the behaviour whilst corrective training takes place!)

Your departure and return should not involve lots of attention, which only over stimulates the dog. Buy one of the toys such as a Kong that can be stuffed with treats to keep the dog busy.

Though it may be difficult to do, try ignoring your dog sometimes to decrease his dependency on you as a playmate. He should be able to amuse himself, or to lie quietly in the evenings. Many owners think that this will destroy the bond but this is not so. A much more healthy and happy relationship will develop as the dog becomes more settled and mentally balanced.

The vet, for the more extreme cases, may prescribe medication. The use of drugs means less anxiety for the dog but does not offer a real solution. Your dog needs to understand that even if you leave him, you will return and this can only be accomplished through dedicated training to associate your absence not with loneliness, but with patience for a CERTAIN return of you to the pack.

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