Most psychologists tell their subjects to “Get a Dog”, which is actually synonymous to ”Get a life”. Out of all animals that one can keep as pets, a dog is the one which develops the deepest and strongest bonds with its master, or its family. After all, there is a reason that dog is called a man’s best friend. The dogs develop an amazing affinity and undying loyalty to their masters. In return, the owner develops strong attachment to the animal as well. Out of all pets, dogs are the ones that are most thoroughly looked after; medically, physically as well as emotionally. Therefore, dog owners want to know solutions to every possible problem that they may face with their pups.
One of the most commonly occurring problems for dog owners is the separation anxiety. Despite being so common, there are very few dog owners who can actually deal with this problem. Separation anxiety in dogs may manifest in various ways. It may start mildly, but can escalate quickly and turn ugly, which can end up making your dog sick. When dogs undergo separation anxiety, they usually show stressed behavior, and also exhibit behavioral issues. There are many ways, in which you can train, and help your dog combat separation anxiety.
What Exactly Separation Anxiety is?
It is very important for dog owners to clearly understand what exactly separation anxiety is. Most dogs do not react well when the owner leaves them at home. They exhibit some forms of extreme behavior such as digging up the soil, scratching the doors and walls, urinating in or around the house, excessive barking and disobeying orders and instructions. This can get very frustrating for both the animal and the owner. They may also start showing panic signs, which you should look out for. All or some of these signs indicate that your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety.
It is often difficult to understand how many well trained dogs also go through separation anxiety. One of the major factors that have been established is the animal’s extent of dependence on the owner. Most people get a dog when it is just a pup. At that stage, it travels everywhere with the owner, rarely ever having to stay alone. This causes problems in later years, when the dog grows big. There are many ways to combat this problem. If done properly and efficiently you can even get your dog to enjoy the time alone and on his own.
Determine If the Dog is Faking It
Before beginning, it is important to know whether the separation anxiety is real or fake. As strange as it may sound, it happens quite a lot. Such a behavior arises due to lack of proper training as well as leadership. With proper training, a dog learns self-control. Dogs without self-control often exhibit such behavior, which is commonly known as simulated separation anxiety. Very similar to misbehaving and attention seeking child, a dog starts to act rashly, knowing that he will have his owner’s full attention. Even any form of punishment, such as scolding, or being shouted at, will be welcomed by the dog in such situations. This is because it will know that it has succeeded in garnering the full attention of its owner.
Simulated separation anxiety is easy to deal with. By dealing with the dog with a firm hand, and giving some sort of light punishment to let your dog know that he has misbehaved, can often cure this problem.
On the other hand, when the dog is really suffering from separation anxiety, it will show signs of being stressed out. Dealing with actual separation anxiety is much more difficult.
Consult a Vet First
Before you try anything, it is recommended you consult a doctor so that you can be assured that your dog is not ill in any way. Excessive urinating, barking, whining, huffing or salivating also point to many other dog problems, so make sure your dog is checked by the vet.
How Do You Contribute to Separation Anxiety?
In most cases of separation anxiety, the owner is at fault to greater extent. Most people treat dogs like babies. This is essential up to an extent only. When we get a dog, usually as a pup, we take it everywhere with us. We introduce it to people like a new born baby, take it to outings, social gatherings, shopping, etc. This is the foundation that we lay for separation anxiety for the future. At this stage, there should be a proper balance as to when you should take your puppy with you, and when you should leave him home. This way he learns to stay alone for a sometime, and is well trained for the absence of his master in later life.
By cooing and pampering a grown up dog before leaving and returning home is one such mistake made by dog owners. A dog in many ways, is like a kid. At some point, he has to learn to grow up and be independent. Such actions make a dog even more upsets when left alone at home by the owner.
However, not all cases are similar. Some dogs experience separation anxiety after they go through any traumatic or life changing events as this changes their outlook about many things. Also changes in normal routine or even shifting houses can sometime cause separation anxiety.
What Must You Do to Help Your Dog?
Here are some things that you can do to make your dog feel better:
Engage him in individual games: There are many games that are designed so that the dog can play alone. When you are home, make your dog play these games, and leave the room discreetly. This way, your dog learns to engage himself even when it is alone.
Ignore it or disappear even when you are home: this can be practiced in the form of a drill. On the days you are home for longer, try ignoring or minimize your interaction with him. Disappear for some time, or lock your door, or shift to a different bedroom. This way, the dog will get trained to be left behind some time.
Do not draw attention to yourself while leaving and arriving: Let your habit of saying goodbye and hello, go off. Don’t say goodbye every time you leave and stop kissing him when you come home. Make it a normal affair, and make your dog realize that this is a part of routine.
Remember: You know your dog more than anyone else so you are the one who can take him out of the trouble. Treat him like a kid and never forget that you must not take part to spoil his habits. One can guarantee you that you’ll enjoy his company at most.