Pets with Problems

Separation Anxiety In Dogs - Suspending Absences

f you are not familiar with the behaviour disorder, separation anxiety in dogs and want to learn more, you can reference these blogs for more in-depth information(click here, here, and here). Briefly, separation anxiety in dogs is an irrational phobic panic attack that occurs when a person or persons of focus leaves and the dog is left alone in the home. Just like in humans, dogs’ emotions and fears are beyond their control and your dog feels that when he is left alone, the world is collapsing around him. This fear results in uncontrollable behaviours such as barking, urination, and destructive tendencies to name but a few – some behaviours such as pacing and drooling are silent but equally devastating. You dog is not doing these things because he is angry with you, being spiteful or just plain naughty – these behaviours are beyond his control and are centred around his irrational but very real fear of being left at home alone. Think about a human having a panic attack and screaming – the screaming is simply a reaction to fear.

Suspending Absences

When I first started studying to become a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer I was told that owners of separation anxiety dogs were amazing people in a class of their own. At the time I couldn’t see why that would be. Once I qualified and had clients of my own, I began to understand. These people are the most compassionate, compliant and dedicated people you could ever ask to work with. What makes them so different? Most trainers and vets are of the opinion that owners would never be able to completely suspend being absent so that their dog is never left alone – something that is critical for success. This is not true. In a survey done a few years ago 45% of owners said that they were completely willing to make sure their dog was never left alone and many were already doing so. Another 37.5% said maybe but after learning about the reasons why this is so important many of those maybes turned into definite yeses

Why is suspending absences so critical?

The best way to immediately address separation anxiety in your dog is to stop leaving your dog alone. This has so many benefits because the trigger (you leaving your home) is removed, which means your dog will not panic, will not become stressed and will stop barking, howling, toileting, destroying things or even hurting themselves. Both you and your dog can relax. If yuo continue to leave him alone the chances are that his separation anxiety will get worse over time, because every time he is alone he learns to be more afraid of being alone and then trying to teach him that there is nothing to worry about becomes that much harder and takes that much longer. In order to overcome panic, we must prevent panic from happening. I know this sounds easier said than done, but it is truly the most effective method before starting on a programme to resolve the issue.

Prevent Panic

If you can prevent this panic from occurring, over time you can teach your dog to trust that you will come back after an absence. Of course, this training takes time and initially you may only be able to leave your dog for just a few moments, but I assure you over time you will be able to leave him for longer and longer periods – this training does work but it means that your dog remains as calm as possible, never panics and trusts you to return and this means that he cannot be left alone. Let me give you an example – imagine you were terrified of spiders and you went to a counsellor to help you get over your fear. After weeks of working with them you are able to look at a small spider from 20 feet away without panicking.

Your counsellor then shoves you into a room full of spiders – how would you feel?. Is this going to help you – I doubt it – it is more likely to put you right back where you started and possibly make your phobia worse. The same applies to dogs. Separation anxiety is like a phobia. We work to help the dog overcome this phobia of being alone so imagine how he would feel when we reach the point where he is comfortable for 10 minutes and the next day is left alone for several hours – what would happen the next time you tried to leave him?

Anxiety and fear are very powerful emotions and take a real toll on any animal’s wellbeing, both physically and mentally. They also prevent us from being able to learn. As humans we know this to be true and the same can be said for dogs. We love our dogs and we do not want them to be stressed or unhappy so the kindest thing that we can do for dogs with separation anxiety is never to leave them alone until they are truly ready.

It can be done!

Everyone leads busy lives and the thought of arranging not to ever leave their dog alone can be daunting but I promise you it is not by any means impossible. Every client I have worked with has managed. Yes, it can take some planning and some organisation but once it’s put into place it becomes part of your way of life. One simple example is to put up posters in nearby colleges and universities – students will often want to earn a few extra pennies and what could be more ideal than being in a quiet house, with a great dog and being able to chill out or study in peace – much nicer than sitting in a library.

As I said at the beginning, clients who have dogs with separation anxiety are in a class of their own and as someone who is passionate about working with dogs with this disorder, I have endless amounts of respect for them. They have all found ways not to leave their dog alone and so can you and I will help you in any way I can.

Contact Me For Help

If you are struggling, I cannot urge you enough to contact me for help.  The expertise I can offer is priceless when helping your dog overcome his anxiety and knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – your dog can be happy home alone.

Please, contact me with any questions you have.  

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