What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety is the new popular topic in the dog world, and this article hopes to dispel some of the myths about separation anxiety. 

Past definition: Decades ago, the common definition for separation anxiety is that a dog becomes so anxious when separated from people or dogs that it becomes destructive and injures itself when left alone. These were extreme cases in which the dogs needed professional behavioral interventions and/or medication.  

Current use of the term: It is common for people to use the term separation anxiety to describe just about anything a dog does when people leave them alone. A bark to signal “HEY!” is perceived as anxiety. Scratching at the door of the room is perceived as anxiety. 

Are those behaviors truly anxiety? Probably not. Dogs are extremely intelligent, and they wouldn’t even blink at the idea of manipulating their humans into getting what they want. Dogs who learn that when they protest they can get their humans to dole out the food and attention, will learn to protest loudly. 

There is a difference between a dog who is clapping back at you and a dog that is truly in distress. It might take a professional to decipher the body language so you know how to proceed. 

What kind of dogs can have separation anxiety? In theory, any dog can have separation anxiety, manufactured or as a function of the dog’s deeply ingrained predisposition. Managing severe separation anxiety is a complex and long-term process. Preventing manufactured separation anxiety is fairly easy. 

How do I prevent separation anxiety? Take the transition to home slowly. Dogs take time to adjust to their new home, and they might quickly learn how to game the system.

-Avoid presenting opportunities for the puppy to bark and you must attend to it. For example, avoid putting the puppy in a crate alone for a few hours on the first day home. Instead, slowly ease your puppy into feeling comfortable in your home, in your crate, and your lifestyle routine.

-The general theme is to avoid creating a fuss when being left alone. If you make a big deal about leaving the house or arriving back home, your dog might get worked up when you come and go. 

-If you jump to give them attention as soon as they protest your departure, they’ll protest even more next time. 

-While it is hard to resist the urge of feeling wanted and needed, the reality is that you are being manipulated by a dog. Don’t fall into their trap. 

*If your dog does have severe separation anxiety, a consultation with a professional in person is the best way to work towards solving the issue.

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