Jane and Sparky
When Jane adopted Sparky from the shelter, all she saw was an adorable mixed breed. Sparky was lively, and charming. Up-to-date on shots and a clean bill of health. A perfect dog companion to a working person and family.
They knew it would take Sparky time to adjust to his new home. But they hadn’t anticipated the frantic barking to last more than a few minutes. Worse, when Jane returned home from work, Sparky would crawl into her arms whimpering and looking at her longingly. Then, one day, Jane came home to find the case of toilet paper had been shredded from one end of the house to the other. Another time, even though she had taken him ‘out’ before she left for an hour, Sparky defecated by the door that she came in.
At first she thought, Sparky just needed to learn some polite house manners. She worked hard to train him what was good and what was unacceptable. He seemed to know what toys were his when she was around, and how to ask to go ‘out’ and in fact on weekends, Sparky didn’t seem to have to go ‘out’ often.
As soon as Jane would start gather up her things to leave the house, Sparky would start racing to the door, drooling and quivering, trying hard to escape. He would howl and bark. Outside of the house, she could hear him frantically bark, sometimes for up to an hour. Or bash himself against the door where Jane just left. Often coming home, she would find urine or feces or something chewed and destroyed.
He would eagerly jump and greet her.
When Jane’s schedule at work changed, the barking and destructive behavior got worse.
At first she thought it might be illness, so she took Sparky to the vet. But there was no underlying physical disease, or problem. Sometimes a blockage, gall bladder, diabetes or kidney disease can cause a dog to urinate, defecated and have emotional problems. Jane eliminated any illness that might be causing Sparky’s behavior, as well as the possibility of submissive urination and incomplete housebreaking.
The behavior escalated over time.
The classic behaviors of Dog Separation Anxiety.
- trying to escape
But those behaviors alone aren’t symptomatic of dog separation anxiety.
Sometimes a dog can simply be behaving in that manner because he has bad manners and doesn’t know the rules of the house. Or he’s responding to negative attention. Some dogs view being yelled at, as a good thing, it’s attention. Negative attention then becomes a reward. Then what it really is just misbehavior for attention.
The key factors that point to dog separation anxiety are some of those behaviors combined with:
Causes of dog separation anxiety.
Quite often, without knowing it an owner can add or create the situations that create dog separation anxiety. When you make a fuss when you leave or when you greet the dog with over-affection. Dogs find security, and confidence within a pack. They view their owner at the pack leader. By making a big fuss, positive or negative in nature when we leave or return home, we reward and add to thedogs concern with our absence. This provokes him to exhibit and feel progressively more stress every time we leave.
Another element that distresses dogs and can contribute to dog separation anxiety, is a change in schedules or a change in residence. Dogs thrive on routine, and disruption can acerbate a growing problem.
Preventing and Altering the Anxiety Behavior
- Vet can prescribe some calming medications, but this won’t cure the underlying behavior issues.
- Crating a dog 10 to 15 minutes before you leave. Creating the crate as the dog’s home cave, you are putting him in a place of safety and you are limiting his movements.
- Only reward the desired behavior
- Use Counter-conditioning, By associating the feared situation with something really good, the dog learns through a different routine that whatever he fears actually predicts good things for him. For example, every time Jane leaves the house, she can give Sparky a puzzle toy stuffed with tasty food. That way, it take him at least 20 minutes to finish.
- Consider a Tech Solution like a Thundershirt or Pet Interactive Monitor as discussed in this article.
The most important thing that Jane needed to acknowledge is that she had to alter her behavior and how she deals with Sparky, and that it will take time for him to learn the new routine.