What really causes separation anxiety in dogs? Is it from a traumatic experience? How do we explain it in a dog that has had only one home and owner? Should we call it separation anxiety if a dog doesn’t want to go into a crate? Certainly there are situations where a dog has true containment phobia but when is it actually separation anxiety?
Some of the reasons behind the behaviors are often owner created.
Behaviors that can be associated with separation anxiety to name a few:
pacing. barking & whining
Certainly, this doesn’t include the total list, these behaviors can also be associated with other behavior problems. You can see where this is going. It is not always easy to determine if your dog has true S/A or just needs training for poor behavior. Some of the reasons behind the behaviors are often owner created. Yes, it is true!
Typical scenario’s may have occurred.
-A dog carries on loudly in a crate when an owner attempts to leave or go to bed. The dog gets removed because of the noise. We now have a dog that has learned what to do to get out of their crate.
-When bringing home a new dog or puppy, failing to leave them alone, being constantly there and available. This creates a dog that is very needy and dependent that may panic when you must leave.
-Over comforting a dog when it is nervous can reinforce that behavior accidentally.
There are many situations that occur that may cause your dog some distress, that’s life. It is up to us as owners to set the rules and boundaries. Our dogs cannot have everything they want and unfortunately, they aren’t the best at realizing that. Don’t feed the situation by over indulging, over nurturing and constantly giving in.
Medication is often the go-to for dogs that have been labeled with separation anxiety. That should be a last resort after training and behavior modification has been attempted. Let’s not create the problem in our dogs and hopefully there will be no need, in most cases, to have to fix it.
If you are like me, you may remember back to when you were in grade school and running a relay race in gym class. It was so important not to drop the baton and we practiced that drill over and over. Above all it was important not to lose the momentum another teammate may have provided us.
Dog training has some similarities. I receive great satisfaction when a Board and Train or Private Training dog has made significant progress in overcoming their poor behaviors. What had been a problem is now no longer exhibited behavior. New behaviors have replaced the old and have become the new normal. As the dog nears the end of training there is less conflict and just what is expected.
Finally, it now comes time to pass the baton. It is time to hand over the dog to their owner completely. In the case of a Board & Train the training continues but it is now the owners that must be taught. Can this now well-behaved dog return to their previous behavior, absolutely! If rules are not followed, if too many privileges are allowed then the baton has been dropped. Dogs will not stay well behaved if you don’t ask your dog to follow and then enforce the rules.
Instructions are given, tools are discussed and practiced, questions are answered. It is now up to the owners to take the baton and run to the finish line. Slow and easy wins this race.
Rescuing a dog is a common and welcome practice these days. Our shelters are full of dogs needing homes for any number of reasons. Sometimes new adopters are told a back story and sometimes nothing at all is known about the dog coming from a shelter.
In many cases new owners will try and explain away a dog’s problem behavior as “well he’s a rescue.” In reality many dogs are just looking for direction as they come into your home to live. They are trying to figure out what the rules are. There is no “Walk This Way” arrow when a dog comes to you from a rescue. Don’t get wrapped up in the back story but rather make a new story. A new dog coming into your home whether it is a rescue or not, needs rules to live by right from the start.
Many common issues can be eliminated or will not even begin if clear rules are established. What rules are good to start?
No need for over affection or getting in the dog’s face- Allow the dog to decompress for a while.
Don’t give unearned privileges- establish rules right from the start rather than trying to change behavior once it has been allowed.
Don’t allow free roaming and access throughout your house at the beginning.
Rules can be loosened up later when a foundation is in place. It is much harder to take a privilege away once it has been given. For example: think about dogs on the furniture. Yes, open your heart but not at the expense of RULES TO LIVE BY. Don’t leave your new rescue stuck in the past, looking for leadership and guidance. Offer those rules at the beginning.
Write a new story, one that includes how delightful and respectful a companion you have. How in spite of being in a rescue, you have the best dog. That’s a story worth talking about.
We all want our dogs to have happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. You may not realize that your dog needs continual training to achieve that perfect life. Why is that fact true? A dog that is confused as to who is in charge may make decisions based on their breed instincts. The need to defend and protect an owner may prevail when it’s not needed. Some instances can include: A stranger is approaching you on a walk and a dog lunges as if to say “stay away”, you have a repairman in your house or delivery person making a delivery. This can cause some dogs to go into defense mode. With certain breeds this need to serve and protect is especially apparent.
German Shepard, Malanois, Rottweiler, Doberman, Akita, Mastiff, Staffordshire to name a few are breeds that routinely are used for protection. They have a natural instinct to for it so training them to be protective can come easier. Of course, any of the above breeds can be taught when not to be protective. If you own one of these breeds, do yourself a favor and don’t leave it to chance and wait for problems to occur. We all know someone who has owned that gentle giant that has displayed no desire to be in charge. This is the dogs personality shining through and of course is another factor. Not all dogs will just become protective.
Confusion as to the dogs’ role or job is what leads to poor behavior. When a dog clearly doesn’t know it isn’t suppose to bark at the windows, growl at strangers or lunge on a walk and thinks it is okay and even desirable. The owner gets excited and yells, the dog is excited and barks, it all seem to be in unison.
Training can shut down behavior before it even starts. Don’t chase the behavior instead get in front of it. That means at the first sight of arousal in your dog, you shut it down. You see your dogs’ ears go up at the sight of another dog and know what it leads to. This is the time to address the excitement. Not when the dog is full out barking and lunging…… you missed your prime opportunity. It will now be harder for your dog to hear anything you say due to their over excitement.
Teaching obedience will help make your dog a friendly, well-behaved companion. This doesn’t mean your dog won’t be protective if needed in the middle of the night. Most dogs regardless of breed will make plenty of noise when startled and surprised. I know mine do!
Sometimes the behavior on our dog is hard to understand. We give them so much, from food to love to a warm house. Yet it is difficult to understand when our dog doesn’t seem to appreciate what we have given and seems to suddenly exhibit behavior that has become alarming.
Do any of these occur?
Your dog has started barking and lunging at other dogs on a walk.
You call your dog to come in from the back yard and they just look at you.
Food is left unattended and stolen, your dog growls when you try retrieve it.
Guests in your home are met with endless barking and growling.
These are all examples of issues that probably did give warning signs. You sometimes don’t recognize what those signs are and where it would ultimately lead you. The privileges you allow your dogs are often unearned privileges. Going through doorways first, hopping up on furniture uninvited, rushing you to get their food. These are all examples of privileges a dog will often give themselves. When you bring that new German Shepard puppy home you smother them with affection but forget to set boundaries or rules to live by. Too much access to your home is one of the biggest mistakes new puppy owners make. We sometimes expect our new dog to be just like our last one, which is rarely the case.
Remember you are the giver of everything, food, warm bed, affection, play time. Don’t dole out these privileges without asking for something in return. Start this right away and problems may never occur. If you have already given too many privileges you can absolutely start fresh and make changes. The great thing about dogs, they can learn whenever you decide to teach them. Think of the tortoise not the hare, slow and steady wins the race.
NEW BEGINNINGS………It is both my company name as well as what you can achieve in this new year.
We always start the year off with a blank page, uncluttered with what the year prior has thrown at us. As you prepare to activate your new years’ resolution(s); The new gym membership, diet or the desire to unclutter, remember to add your dog or puppy to your goals. Training can be essential to the success and stability of the year ahead.
Whether it is a small Shih Tzu or a large German Shepard don’t wait to see if problems will fix themselves. Generally, problems escalate and get worse, in my experience. If your dogs’ behavior is a problem then take the steps to do something about it. You don’t want to find yourself stuck hoping for the best or assuming your dog with work its own issues out.
Sometimes you remember the last dog you had that hardly needed training. Dogs like people have their own personality and each are unique. Sometimes a dog just needs more help to get on the path to better behavior. Seek help to accomplish your goals if you feel overwhelmed. We hire plumbers to fix pipes, we hire landscapers to mow our lawn, so why not hire a dog trainer to work with you and your dog. Create a better relationship with your dog and a better life for you both. The year will get cluttered no doubt but you can decide if this is one of your goals to accomplish.