Separation Anxiety in Dogs
last updated 17th, Aug 2009,
Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Your dog may look happy when you return, but in truth it's excitable, maybe experiencing mental anguish, and possibly not healthy.
Did you know that separation anxiety is the second most common reason why dogs are given up by their owners?
Separation anxiety can occur in any breed and at any age.
Dogs are pack animals and it is not natural for a dog to be left alone. Dogs can react to a lack of exercise and/or the stress of being separated from their "pack member(s)" by becoming upset, destructive, barking continuously, or eliminating in the house. The degrees can vary, and your dog may only do one, or perhaps all of the behaviors. You may be mistaking the behaviors as "Breed Traits" when in reality it is mental anguish. You may see personality changes in your pet as well. He may become aggressive, or shy. They may become depressed and can even make themselves sick.
They may begin to chew on parts of their own body. Our neighbor's German Shepherd chewed on his tail so much that it had to be amputated. He had recently lost his favorite "pack member" and obviously didn't have another strong enough pack leader, to take its place. My own rescued schnauzer, perfect as she is, will occasionally dump out our garbage and spread it all through the house. This too, although it does not happen often, is separation anxiety because it only happens when we leave the house.
In order to stop our dogs from having separation anxiety, we first need to understand what is causing it. Two of the more common reasons this can occur are... (and the cause can be either or both of these).
The number one cause of separation anxiety is a human’s lack of leadership. We humans more often than not tend to treat our fellow canine family members like humans. In a pack, the leader is allowed to leave. However, the followers never leave the leader. If your dog is instinctually seeing you as their follower and you leave them, it causes so much mental anguish that a dog often takes it out on your house or themselves.
The dog sees themselves as the one who is responsible for the pack and when the pack has left the house they get in a panic because they are afraid that something might happen to their pack members for which they are responsible for. When a dog accepts you as pack leader separation anxiety will not exist. However, the issue of separation anxiety is not always solely one of a leadership issue.
Separation anxiety can also be due to a lack of exercise. A build up of energy being stored within the dog can bring about multiple behavioral issues. When you leave, it intensifies their stress and they act out because they do not know what else to do with this built up energy. Walk your dog in the morning before they eat and again at night. For the walk to be successful, your dog needs to be focused on their owner, their pack leader. Therefore, the dog should not be pulling in front of you. The dog should be walking beside or behind you, following YOU as opposed to you following THEM.
If your dog heel beside or behind you, the walk will not accomplish its intended goal. When a dog walks with theiryou allow the dog to pull in front, you are once again re-enforcing to your dog that they are alpha over you. Instinctually, the pack leader goes first. If you do not make mind focused on the owner, they are releasing both physical and mental energy. This works their brain and also fulfills their canine instinct, but also relieves them of the responsibility of having to provide leadership in a human society, which the dog is really not equipped to do. I suggest you spend some tine with your pets. The time you spend will less your dog’s future problems.
Since it is not natural for a pack animal to be left alone, this can also occur in a submissive dog who does see you as the leader, but who is not completely secure within his pack.