Dogs with ‘Separation Anxiety’ will display several different symptom.
These are not dogs who just follow you around the house. Or dogs who will never give you an inch of space on the sofa. They are also not dogs who bark or howl when you leave but eventually calm down. Separation Anxiety (SA) in dogs is much more severe than all that. Dogs with real SA will be severely disturbed in your absence. These are dogs who may leave puddles from sweating or urinate in the house from being over stressed. These are dogs who may bloody their paws by scratching at the door waiting for your return.
It is important to actually define SA. Diagnosing SA should only be done by a veterinary behaviorist. And most veterinary behaviorist will define a dog suffering from SA as follows:
- Dogs who have formed a hyper-attachment to a person
- Dogs who remain in a panic during that person’s absence
- Dogs who who will cause self harm due to extreme stress from that person’s absence
Dog owners who have dogs who suffer from SA will often wonder if it is their fault for the dog’s behavior. It is almost never the fault of the dog owner if the dog is in a loving home. Research has shown several triggers for SA in dogs. Some of those triggers are when a dog is returned to a shelter after being adopted. Or major changes in a family makeup such as someone moving out or a death. Other triggers may come from abuse or malnutrition as a puppy. There has been evidence that there could be genetic causes for dogs with SA. And even some breeds are susceptible to having SA as part of their genetic makeup.
Are you asking yourself what you can do to help a dog with Separation Anxiety?
It is hard to help a dog change it’s behavior without intervention. There are some things that experts suggest. For example, don’t put a dog who suffers from SA in a crate during a person’s absence. Devices like bark collars may help reduce barking, but will not help reduce the stress that the dog is going through. Also, bringing in another dog to keep a dog with SA ‘company’ does not change the behavior. This is because the behavior is triggered by the absence of a person.
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