August 18th, 2012
Separation anxiety in dogs has been described by many canine behaviorists as a mentally stressful period. In fact, the problem has been pinpointed as the second most common reason why dog owners choose to give up their dogs or have them euthanized.
Dogs are Pack Animals
By nature, dogs are pack animals. Thus, they thrive on having company. In the wild, a dog is an important component of the pack. Whether seeking for food or playing, members of the pack rely on each other. With domestication, a dog now treats his human family as the pack. Thus, he looks up to an “alpha” person who is the leader of the pack.
A dog develops separation anxiety when he feels that he is isolated from his pack. Whether he is left alone for long periods of time or when he lacks physical or mental stimuli, a dog develops negative behavior such as barking persistently, becoming destructive, and even eliminating inside the house. Dogs may differ in the degree of manifestation of undesirable behavior but each of these behaviors reflects mental distress.
Understanding Separation Anxiety
In order to better address separation anxiety in dogs, there is a need to understand the process by which the phenomenon develops.
There are many theories which have been forwarded to try to explain why some dogs are more prone to suffer from separation anxiety than others. Experts have identified two forms of separation anxiety in dogs. One is considered as the “true form” of separation anxiety while the other is a “simulated” or “learned” behavior.
- Simulated or Learned Separation Anxiety
Dogs that suffer from this type often lack the leadership of an “Alpha dog” in the pack. The lack of human leadership can pave the way for dogs to learn and cultivate negative behavior in an effort to seek attention. Contrary to the common notion of dog owners, this acquired form of separation anxiety in dogs is a part of a panic response. It is not a way to punish their owners for leaving them alone.
- True Separation Anxiety
A dog suffering from “true” separation anxiety experiences real stress when his owner leaves. Unknown to many dog owners, separation anxiety has often been an encouraged behavior. When we leave or arrive home, we make a big fuss about leaving our dogs. As puppies, we take them everywhere with us. In our effort to socialize our pets, we inadvertently develop feelings of total dependence. During the time that we have to leave them alone for considerably long periods of time, they switch into panic mode because they are not used to being away from the pack.
In some dogs, separation anxiety can be triggered by an abrupt change in their routines. Spending time in boarding kennels or moving houses can often bring on symptoms of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety can also be triggered by lack of exercise, boredom, or it can even be a breed characteristic.
Solutions for Separation Anxiety in Dogs
In severe cases, vets may prescribe medications that can calm a dog’s senses however this is only a temporary solution. It is not a fool-proof way to eliminate the separation anxiety. There is a need to identify the root cause in order to properly address the problem.
Since most cases of separation anxiety are often forms of misbehavior, adequate and proper training are the best ways to combat the problem. Strong pack leadership coupled with obedience and crate training can eventually help overcome the problem.
Dogs that lack exercise have pent-up energy that needs to be released or else it will fuel the development of multiple behavioral issues. Exercise is an important part of your dog’s life. As a dog owner, you are responsible in providing your dog with mental and physical stimulation. Daily exercise such as running, walking, playing, or swimming can do wonders in preventing and/or eliminating symptoms of separation anxiety. Remember that dogs are also social beings thus daily exercise and playtime is an important avenue to channel their physical energies as well as stimulate their minds and meet the need for human companionship.
If you don’t have the luxury of time to devote to your dog’s mental and physical needs, you can always look for a reputable Manhattan dog walker who can address your dog’s needs regularly. Aside from getting the much-needed exercise, an NYC dog walker also provides the human company that your dog needs while you are out. Manhattan dog walkers from reputable companies such as Puptopia also possess the training and experience in dealing with behavioral issues in dogs thus, they are better equipped to deal with stressed, misbehaving, or frightened dogs.
The remission rate for separation anxiety in dogs is quite high. One thing is clear though—separation anxiety in dogs can be overcome. With the right intervention coupled with time and tons of patience, you’ll have a happier, well-balanced, and stress-free pet.