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If you have ever lived with a dog with separation anxiety you will recognise the frustration and stress from not being able to leave your home without your dog, either out of fear from getting that 10th note in your mailbox from your neighbours complaining about the non-stop barking and howling coming from behind your door, or from fear that if you do leave you will come back to a house in ruin from one of your dog’s desperate attempts to flee his/her confinement or in his/her panic they have accidently soiled all over your carpet or furniture. You feel trapped and desperate, but you are not alone.
Separation anxiety is one of the most common problem behaviours dog owners experience, and 3 out of 4 dogs can be helped through their anxiety and be okay with being left home alone.
Separation Anxiety – The definition
Separation anxiety is a state of panic. In fact, separation anxiety in a dog is the equivalent of a full-blown panic attack in a human caused by the anxiety of being left alone.
When in a panic state of mind the brain floods the body with adrenaline to trigger the emergency responses leading to illogical, excessive and disconnected behaviours. Your dog cannot just “get a grip” because in his/her panicked state all he/she can think about is escaping.
These excessive and disconnected behaviours can be displayed in different ways. Vocalizing, urination or defecation, destruction or even self-mutilation are just some of the behaviours your dog might display. Your dog’s behaviours might also depend on the degree of his/her separation anxiety. Separation anxiety comes in mild, medium and severe degrees. A mild degree of separation anxiety might be harder to detect as the behaviours displayed here can be more subtle than a full blown destruction attack on your furniture.
How can I Help my Dog with his/her Separation Anxiety?
Even though we want to stop the behaviours the key to help is to look at the underlying emotion – the fear of being left alone and work with that in order to properly help our dogs get through it and have them be able to feel calm and content even when home alone.
Training an emotion is something that takes time, and with separation anxiety the training can sometimes feel like you are getting nowhere. Patience, stability, and professional help is the best tools for you and your dog when working through your dog’s separation anxiety. It is also important to remember that each dog is an individual with different needs and different take on their emotions, so there is no one way fix all approach when working with dog behaviour problems.