What is it?
This is when your dog experiences an element of distress being away from one or more owners or even another dog. For some dogs, it's only apparent if they are left alone.
This distress looks different dog to dog. Some will howl or bark obsessively, some will attempt to escape (through any means necessary by climbing, digging, breaking windows or chewing door frames) Some will become extremely destructive or even injure themselves. Some will never show any obvious symptoms but will be insanely excited when you get home and may then show some excessive barking and things when you go to other rooms leaving them behind, they need to be with you all the time. It can also get worse over time, so while mild in the beginning and perhaps manageable, can quickly escalate, especially when other stress is added.
Why do dogs experience it?
Often when the dog is a puppy, we either spend every minute with them, or we just throw them off the deep end, leaving them alone for the full time we are at work during the day. Often people miss the crucial step of teaching the puppy to enjoy or at least be comfortable, spending time on their own. To learn how to self-soothe. Much like children, this doesn't come naturally and sometimes takes work to accomplish. They have to know you are there for them, but also that it's ok if you aren't and they are safe either way.
Some dogs experience a traumatic event when their owner is away (a large thunder storm for instance with a close by strike) and will associate being alone, with the bad scary thing happening or they simply feel safer when the owner is there.
Is it important to address it?
It can not only be dangerous for the dog physically if they self-traumatise or repeatedly attempt to escape, but it's very damaging for their mental help and confidence. Co-dependence might look cute, when your dog can't stand to be away from you, but it ultimately is distressing for the dog and so for their welfare, it really should be addressed. Not to mention the nuisance barking that can disrupt the neighbourhood or property damage that can cost thousands.
When is it better to do the training?
The best time to attempt training for separation anxiety is actually when you have more time at home, or have a way of leaving your dog with someone at all times. This sounds counter-productive, but we have to reassure your dog they are safe first, and then gradually build up their tolerance to being left alone. For this reason, it's actually much faster to work through the training if they are never left alone. If you begin the training process and then suddenly leave them for 8 hours, they aren't going to trust the system we are building and it could really slow down their response. If they also have issues like storm phobia, it is almost impossible to limit the impact of those if you are not home, unless you are providing medication, and even then, it's not 100% effective. Having someone with your dog all the time, means we can really make sure they feel completely safe during the program.
How do we do the training?
The best thing to do is give us a call and we can chat about your dog's needs so head on up to our 'Contact Us' tab, submit the contact form and wait for our call. You aren't alone and there is no time like the present to get professional help and advice for this issue.
This is Sam. When his owner got in touch, they were worried that he had been developing leash reactivity, but it was clear that the bigger problem we his separation anxiety.
While they were controlling it with medication, he had stopped destroying blinds and doors, it was clear that the stress that was building up during the day and spilling out into their walks.
With time, a tailored behaviour modification plan and support from us here at Commitment 2 Canines, they have been able to reduce the medication and improve a whole range of anxious behaviours. When they moved house we even had to start a lot of the work over due to the added stress, but he actually got back in the routine quite quickly because his dedicated owners knew what they needed to do. This sweet boy has come such a long way and is a credit to what you can achieve if you're dedicated to the outcome.
As always, I hope this helps you keep your commitment to canines.