In true cases of separation anxiety, your dog will typically anticipate the separation from associated cues in his environment. Your dog learns these cues, many of which are subliminal, from your pre-departure routine.
The main things can be: Alarm clock ringing, kids getting dressed, you picking up car keys etc. The minor details show in your body language, things that we don’t notice we’re doing. The anxiety begins with the initial cue and steadily grows until you actually leave the house.
To round it off, we can often exacerbate the situation by trying to pacify our dogs and tell them “I’ll be back soon, you’ll be ok”. Your dog, however, cannot control the situation so his frustration level rises and the distress grows steadily, peaking usually within 30 minutes from the time you left.
From there the anxiety levels slowly decline at a variable rate but as a dog slowly recovers, any stimuli may re-sensitise him, such as another dog barking, a car driving by, or a delivery man coming to the door.
There are numerous signs and symptoms exhibited with separation anxiety such as excessive barking or whining, scratching or digging, chewing furniture, doors, window frames, etc or frantic pacing. An increased frequency in urination, wet footprints from sweaty paws, drooling or a highly exaggerated greeting routine are all symptoms to look for.
Does your dog follow you from couch to fridge, to kitchen counter and back to couch? Scratch the door of the loo whilst you’re busy and then follow you to wherever you’re heading next? Some owners think its “cute” but this acute awareness of an owners every step, could be the genesis of a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
One of the reasons separation anxiety seems more prevalent today than a few decades ago is that it is often misdiagnosed by the average pet owner. However, just because the symptoms are there, doesn’t mean your dog is suffering from it.
For sure house soiling can be related to anxiety, but there are many other potential causes such as incomplete house training, lack of access to appropriate elimination areas, unreasonable owner expectations (expecting the dog to “hold it”), fear, excitement, marking, submissive elimination, or physical incontinence.
Also, dogs are masters of routine, so things like changing jobs, moving house, girlfriend moving in, are all things that can upset their routine and trigger things like separation anxiety. And should we react in the ‘wrong’ way in these instances, we can very quickly make the problem worse.
A good example of this, is getting a puppy during the holidays, which is a very common, BIG mistake. The first few days is amazing, where the pup is the centre of endless attention, and everything is fun. And then almost overnight, the puppy is very much pushed to the outside as we’re now busy getting ready for school, work, and real post holiday life.
Such a change can be quite dramatic for a dog, especially a young pup - and as events unfold, it can quickly spiral into serious anxiety if we’re not careful and end up reinforcing the wrong behaviours.
If you would like more information on canine training, or behavioural issues, please to contact us on 091 654 1960, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or check our website here.