Actually, NO! – he is not being naughty! He is terrified and panicking and his behaviour is purely a physical expression of his panic. It is no different from a child screaming because they are frightened. Punishing him for his behaviour will not work and will increase his panic. After all, if you have a friend who screams whenever she sees a spider, slapping her on the head and telling her to get over it will not stop her being frightened and screaming.
What we need to do is to understand WHY he is behaving like this and working on the underlying issue – his fear of being left alone. If we can resolve his fear, all the unwanted behaviours will disappear.
One of the most common ‘deterrents’, particularly with barking, to this sort of behaviour are shock or bark collars. Some emit a citronella spray up the dogs nose whereas others actually give the dog an electric shock. Do we really want to resolve our dogs’ behaviour issues by frightening them? All that happens is that the dog feels worse – he doesn’t stop barking because he is no longer panicking, he stops barking because every time he does he gets an electric shock or a spray of citronella up his nose which HURTS but the fear doesn’t go away and his anxiety and stress increases.
I have dedicated several blogs to dog separation anxiety because it is such an important topic and I really want owners to understand what separation anxiety truly means. Separation anxiety is not something your dog has a choice in, and although it may seem illogical as you always come back to him, we must remember that our dogs are no more responsible for their feelings than we are. As owners we have to understand that this fear is not logical or rational. Humans have phobias which appear irrational such as a fear of heights, a fear of spiders or flying even though nothing has happened in your life to give you that fear. You may have an irrational fear? Think about what happens to you when you encounter your fear – you know that there is no rational explanation for it but you are terrified just the same, you get anxious and you physically respond – maybe you scream or run or just freeze – you can’t help it! These phobias are irrational and generally not caused by some sort of trauma. Dog separation anxiety is the same. It’s irrational, and the dog cannot help himself