Separation Anxiety in Dogs – Stop Giving So Much Attention to Your Pet

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.

What’s the Difference Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals?

There is controversy surrounding the roles of animals in the lives of people with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Many of us have seen the posts online about registering your animal as an emotional support animal with a small fee, and being able to keep your animal in a no pets allowed setting. This has led people to question the legitimacy of all service animals and their roles. A feeling of distrust among people who do not understand the difference between these animals, and the rights that accompany them, has been emerging as more people utilize these services.

Service Dogs are the most protected and trained of the 3 types of dogs. While many people refer to all 3 types as “service animals”, the official names for this type is Service Dog. These dogs are legally considered medical equipment and have a price tag to match, ranging from $10,000- $50,000. They are intensively trained for 1.5-2.5 years, having to pass a variety of tests to be serviceable including, but not limited to, opening cupboards, retrieving dropped objects, staying calm in public, etc.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Service Dogs are allowed anywhere their handler is, and cannot be turned away from an establishment or refused to go to work with their handler. DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act, and DOJ/HUD Fair Housing Act and Federal Rehabilitation Act cover other circumstances that the ADA doesn’t. While there is a difference between Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals, there is a gray area for dogs that are used to calm anxiety attacks under ADA rules. Psychiatric Service Dogs are covered under the ADA only if they perform a specific action to avoid or lessen an attack. If they are just there for comfort then they are considered an Emotional Support Animal.

Therapy dogs are kind of the opposite side of the same coin as Service Dogs. Instead of offering physical aid to their handlers, they provide psychological or physiological therapy to others and are accompanied by a handler who doesn’t usually need their service. The best example of a therapy dog would be dogs that go to children’s hospitals to bring comfort, or dogs that work in school systems.

These animals, like the Service Dogs, require extensive training. Therapy dogs are also encouraged to be very social and interact with a variety of people, unlike Service Dogs who need to focus on their handler. Therapy dogs may be trained by anyone, but they need to meet standards to be certified. Therapy dogs do not have the same rights as service dogs, though many places will allow a therapy dog to accompany their owners, they are not required to by law.

The last type we are discussing are Emotional Support Animals. This one is the most vague and open-ended. An Emotional Support Animal does not have to have any special training and most of the time is registered by its owner because it brings comfort. Also, an Emotional Support Animal does not have to be a dog. These animals are not protected under the ADA and cannot accompany their owners in establishments where there are no animals allowed. Owners with a registered support animals can keep them in housing that otherwise does not allow pets according to the Fair Housing Act.

Dogs With Separation Anxiety: Twelve Tips From a Professional Canine Behavior Specialist

As a Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in behavior issues and has treated many cases of canine separation anxiety, I have seen first-hand how challenging the problem can be. Separation issues not only have behavioral consequences for the dog, but there is an emotional component for both dog and owner, which can make matters even more difficult.

Some dogs are hyper-attached to a particular person, while others simply do not like to be left alone. Anxiety levels range from mild to extreme, and may display as pacing, drooling, barking or other vocalizations, inappropriate elimination, and destruction, to name a few. In extreme cases, dogs may injure themselves trying to escape to follow their owners. It can be frustrating to come home to destruction and potty accidents day after day, and truly terrible to watch your dog suffer. So what can you do?

1. First, set up a video camera to record your dog’s actions when you are away. Reviewing the footage will help to you determine whether your dog seems anxious or upset, or is destroying things out of boredom. If it’s the latter, providing more exercise and mental stimulation should help.

2. Consider creative management solutions. If your dog remains calm as long as another dog is present, you could bring him to a doggy daycare center, or arrange for play dates with another dog. If that’s not possible, hire a petsitter, or bring your dog along when you do short errands.

3. Desensitize your dog to departure cues-those things that clue him in that you’re leaving. Pick up your keys and put them down immediately; put on your jacket and remove it. Do these things multiple times each day until your dog does not react.

4. To prepare for a departure, choose an area your dog will feel safe, such as his crate or a gated off room; this varies by dog, as some anxious dogs may panic in a crate.

5. Be sure your dog is well exercised before you leave him.

6. Provide a stuffed Kong or other tantalizing chew item that will last for some time.

7. You can also place an item that smells like you (such as a t-shirt or sweatshirt you’ve been wearing, or a towel you’ve rubbed on your body) in his safe are to provide comfort.

8. You may have to practice being physically separated but in sight first, then out of your dog’s sight but still in your home before you ever actually leave the house. Once your dog is ready for actual departures, leave for very short periods at first, starting with mere seconds. Gradually build to longer absences. Don’t push too far too fast, always making sure your dog remains calm.

9. Complementary measures that can help include body wraps, psycho-acoustically designed music, DAP, flower essences, and more.

10. In severe cases, pharmacological intervention may be indicated. Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.

11. A trained professional can offer guidance and support. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers is a good place to start.

12. There are some good books on the subject. Don’t Leave Me: Step-by-Step Help for Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety is an in-depth workbook with step-by-step protocols, tips and techniques that allow you to customize a rehabilitation program for your dog. The Cautious Canine is a shorter booklet but is packed with useful information.

Remember that progress will be made gradually. In mild cases improvement may take only a few weeks. In moderate cases, it might take months. In extreme cases, complete recovery could take up to a year or more. The important thing is to stick with the program, seek help when necessary, and do not give up hope. Your dog is worth it!