What is Separation Anxiety/Separation Related Behaviours ?
Separation anxiety in dogs is the term used for behaviours that are displayed when a dog cannot cope with being isolated away from someone it has become attached to. Dogs on a whole are social animals and do not enjoy being left alone.
Even the most self-assured, confident dog can suffer elements of separation anxiety, they would rather come with you than stay on their own but if they are well-adjusted and balanced they will have learnt through past experiences not to get overly anxious and have learnt to self ‘chill’.
This may have occurred without you even being aware, so the two minutes getting the washing, the fifteen minute dash to the shops and forty five minute school run, was actually training your puppy in small increments to be able to cope when left alone. The dog learns before any anxiety rises that you will return. So they resign themselves to times alone as part of their normal routine and fill their time with sleeping, chewing or playing with their toys and keeping an ear out for your return.
Separation anxiety is not simply a slight stressful state, in human terms it is a full-blown panic attack, fear and anxiety combined. Humans can try to calm and rationalise their thoughts and evaluate the content of their fear but dogs cannot to this. We cannot say to a dog ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get a grip’. The hormone and neuro-chemical process takes over the brain and physical behaviours are shown which are out of the dogs control. Until this anxiety is managed, the behaviours will continue. Reprimanding any behaviours that occur whilst the dog is suffering in this state of mind will not eradicate them but just make them far worse.
What behaviours can be shown by a dog suffering with separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety can be mild, moderate or severe. Below are some behaviours your dog may have displayed:
- Pacing/hyper vigilance at access areas to the property
- Depression (no interest)
- Chewing/ destructive behaviours
- Panting/sweaty paws
- Shadowing owners
Contributing Factors to Separation anxiety
Knowing the reasons that may have caused your dog to have reached this point does not help in the process to overcome the anxiety but it may help you to understand and help your dog through it. Some of the factors are listed below;
- Multiply rehoming/or just one re -homing
- Severe malnutrition or illness in puppyhood
- Never being left alone then suddenly being left alone
- Death in the family. (animal or person)
- Introduction of a new family member (animal or person)
- Moving home
- Change of normal routine
- Removal from the litter too young
- Early and improper weaning
- Single puppy (1 in litter)
- A long-crated transportation journey when a pup
- Pain related or old age onset
- Seizure disorder
There is hope!
Thoughts from canine professionals in the past have put separation anxiety as an issue that is close to impossible to resolve but now experts in the field find it is treatable with the combination of new scientific research in behaviour training, management, new technology and in severe case prescribed medication, Many dogs have be successfully guided through the process to lead happy and more contented lives when their owners go out. It often also improves the dog’s general confidence in other areas of fear related issues that they may have.
Owners need to be aware that it takes time, patience and dedication to help your dog overcome this state of mind of confusion, abandonment and terror, but it is in our power to be able to make a difference. There is a specific protocol that needs to be followed which I can support and guide you through every step of the way with visits, emails and telephone conversations.
How long will it take?
This is a very reasonable question and one that every concerned owner asks. There is no fast track with this process, some dogs respond quicker than others whether it be mild, moderate or severe cases. It can take a few weeks in most cases, but sometime months, progress is steadily followed. The programme works in phases and the next phase cannot be moved onto until the dog is ready. This is why I would continually assess throughout the programme to help ensure the best long term outcome.
Time and Cost Commitments
Within a ‘Separation Anxiety Modification Plan’, I would initially assess your dog to determine the depth of the problem and tailor the programme to your individual dog. We would then discuss the coaching I would give to you and your dog within the programme and what is required by yourself in undertaking the commitment. I would help and support you throughout the process one hundred percent.
Our modern digital world demands instant results but our dogs still work in analog time. The rehabilitation can be slow so that is why it is so important to have support and assurance from me to keep you committed to the entire process by marking the triumphs, however small along the way.
My Behaviour Modification Plans for separation anxiety start with a pre-assessment session at £75.00, from then it is determined whether a full programme is required dependant on the individual case. This could be set over a number of weeks but payments are then spread throughout the programme duration. Moderate and severe cases would require additional mentoring and support if this is applicable then this is advised on commencing the programme.
The length of time that your dog has been suffering with separation anxiety is very relevant to the time it takes to see results of reversal. For example, if you have recently moved house or had a change of circumstance and your dog has started to display some of the behaviours listed above then by acting now you can gain better results.
This is due to every time the dog suffers with anxiety, the hormone levels increase and get triggered very quickly on future occasions, the anxiety gets heightened further to display more severe symptoms, so time is of the essence here. If you are dedicated to wanting to help your dog through this heart-breaking condition which causes distress to everyone involved, then it is one of the most rewarding fulfilling journeys you can take in making a huge difference to your life and your dog’s wellbeing and happiness.
Please contact me for an informal chat about your dogs separation anxiety issues.