What is dog separation anxiety
Separation anxiety in dogs
One of the most significant behavior problems in dogs is separation anxiety. A distinction must be made between whether the dog suffers from real separation anxiety or simply does not like to stay at home alone. Separation anxiety dogs often have trouble staying home alone, but that doesn't mean that all dogs who struggle with your human's absence also experience anxiety. Separation anxiety does not only mean an interference with the well-being of the dog, this problem can also lead to unpleasant situations for its owner.
Causes of the separation call
There are a wide variety of reasons why dogs may develop separation anxiety for a variety of reasons. It is not uncommon for this phenomenon to occur in dogs that have been housed (several times) in an animal shelter. The problem here is that separation fears are one of the most common reasons why dogs are even given to the animal shelter or even put to sleep at the vet. This problem of wellbeing can also develop in cases in which the dog is very dependent on its humans or is insecure. Last but not least, separation anxiety can suddenly arise if the dog has had a traumatic experience while he was alone at home.
A dog's behavior depends primarily on the severity of its fear. There are dogs that - as soon as the door slams shut - begin to whine, bark and howl, which often leads to angry neighbors. Some dogs are very restless, run restlessly back and forth and urinate in the apartment. As a rule, the dog calms down quickly as soon as its owner returns home. It almost seems as if there was never anything that was of course wrong. Sometimes the exact opposite can also be observed: The dog behaves extremely enthusiastically when his master or mistress comes home. In order to be really sure how the dog is behaving in the absence, cameras in the house have proven to be very helpful. With their help, it is possible to observe exactly what the dog is doing when it is on its own. And now it is also possible to make a clear assessment of exactly what behavior the dog is displaying and under what circumstances this happens.
How should separation anxiety be dealt with?
This type of behavioral problem is not easy to resolve. Mainly because the boss is not at home at the time of the behavior. Intervening in this situation turns out to be practically impossible. There are several aspects to consider for a successful therapy. First of all, it should be ensured that the dog really feels safe where it is being trained and that it classifies the environment (from experience) as trustworthy. Only then can you slowly and carefully begin to change something. It is very important that you return home before the dog becomes extremely anxious or stressed. The moment the dog is around you, you need to put in place clear and consistent rules so that the dog learns to trust you.
Supports and resources
It is difficult, if not impossible, to teach a dog anything in a stressful situation. Various supplements or aids can therefore be used to ensure that the dog is a little more relaxed. This gives freedom to learn new behaviors. Medpets offers a wide range of supporting products. These are, for example, natural calming agents such as Zylkene or Adaptil. A food is also available that has been specially developed for (long-term) situations where anxiety plays a role: Royal Canin Calm Diet. None of these products restrict or even numb your dog's perception. Ultimately, the thundershirt can also be used. This is a special shirt that fits very closely to the dog's body and has a calming effect on him, similar to what happens when babies are swaddled. However, the thundershirt is not intended to be used all day long.
Leave and return
It is vitally important to leave and return home as calmly as possible. Try not to pay any attention to the dog in either case. This is a way of showing your dog that your comings and goings are completely normal. If you pay extra attention to your dog before leaving, by lovingly caressing or talking to your dog, he may get the idea that something extraordinary is about to happen. You should also emit as few obvious signals as possible that you are about to leave the house. It can be a good idea to leave the television or radio on when you leave the house, as turning it off can be a warning signal for the dog. In the long run, just switching off the radio can put the dog in fear and panic. Try to make sure the dog is in a calm state of mind when you walk. If the dog is very upset by this point, his condition will certainly not improve unless you are really away from home. Of course, a lack of exercise or boredom can intensify separation fears. Therefore, you should devote enough time to your dog for nice walks. Mental exertion such as games or exercises are also ideal, because a tired and busy dog will be more inclined to relax.
Sometimes distraction can also lead to success. Because if a dog is carefully busy with something, there is less room for stressful situations to arise. Ultimately, the dog must be able to associate something positive with staying home alone. The best way to distract a dog is through food. Of course, at this point you have to make sure that the dog is not already full. Something incredibly delicious that the dog does not normally get can be beneficial. An excellent variant is the combination of play and food, such as Kong, a dog toy that you can fill with snacks. So the dog is busy for a long period of time.
A wire mesh box can be a very useful tool in dealing with separation anxiety. Sometimes a large living space such as the living room or kitchen is too cluttered for a dog, which increases the stress. A box can give the dog a lot more security. An absolute prerequisite is that the dog is used to the box and sees it as a trustworthy place to lie!
Unfortunately, in some cases the above changes cannot solve the problem. It is best to hire a professional behavior therapist to guide and support you in dealing with your dog's separation anxiety.
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