Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety is a common problem in dogs which has divided expert opinion of the causes behind the behaviour for many years. The situation can become dramatic when the owners leave, resulting in chewed carpets, remote controls, dog beds etc, soiling of the house and constant barking, whilst upsetting the neighbours in the process.
This then results as a vicious cycle of anxiety for the owners, often causing them to sacrifice their freedom by not leaving the house.
This is no fun for neighbours, owners or the dog, so the problem must be addressed.
Many dog experts have anthropomorphised this behaviour, labelling the dog as bored and then devised a new toy to occupy the dog in the owners’ absence or placed the dog in a cage restricting any potential damage to the home.
Unfortunately this is a two dimensional view of the behaviour and will not help the dogs state of mind.
The canine has survived for millions of years before the ‘evolution’ from wolf to dog.
The dog has ’evolved’ dramatically in appearance; however their basic instincts that have kept them alive for so many years are still apparent today; The two most obvious forms being their communication (body language) and their need for leadership.
The species would not have been nearly as successful, if the canines were not as experts in these areas as they always have been.
The dog must have a leader and if you are not communicating the correct leadership signals then the dog will assume the leader position.
This creates problems, because the dog as a leader is then responsible for your well being. So when you leave the home, the dog has no idea where you have gone and his way of dealing with the stress of loosing you is to react by chewing and barking.
The dog is not being naughty, he is genuinely distraught.
In this situation we have to change roles of leader from the dog to you therefore relieving the dog of the massively responsibility of having to protect the pack. We can do this by using subtle body language techniques observed in the wild by wolves.
In the wild after ever separation no matter how long or how short there is a reuniting ritual. During this ritual the leaders of the wolf pack do not look or speak to the other wolves, by doing this, they are saying ‘I am still in charge, do not worry and do not come up to me’. To mimic this behaviour in the domestic situation after every separation, we must go through the same ritual.
We do this by not speaking or looking at the dog when we leave the house or when we return. By not looking or speaking we are taking any anxieties off the dog.
If we practice this with short build ups combined with other wolf pack body language techniques then you will become the leader, resulting in a stress free happy dog which will not chew or bark in your absence.
By Nigel Reed