Monday, 28 January 2019 09:14

Dogs with Separation Anxiety (Velcro Dogs)

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Dogs with Separation Anxiety (Velcro Dogs) Dogs with Separation Anxiety (Velcro Dogs) Dogs with Separation Anxiety (Velcro Dogs)

What is Dog Separation Anxiety?

Before I answer this, let's take a dive into a dog's mind. Dog is a social creature, they love and feel safe being with the pack. A domesticated dog tends to think that their owner (and family) is their pack. When being left alone, they feel like something is missing and bring unsafe feeling. Especially if the dog overly dependent with the owner, although building trust with your dog requires "bonding", too much attachment may cause this behavioral problem.

In simple words, dog separation anxiety is a behavioral problem that occurs in absence of the owner. The manifestation can vary depend on how severe the anxiety in your dog is. Some of this behavior is excess barking, urinating or eliminating inside the house (even after she got housebroken), digging, chewing and scratching doors or rugs. This can cause lots damage to your house, and if you’re not helping her, she can start self mutilating.

The term of velcro dog also related to this particular anxiety, dog with separation anxiety often called as velcro dog by many dog lover, because the dog will try to follow their owner wherever they go, this is why the anxiety often called as velcro dog syndrome.

One thing in common among all velcro dog is, they'll shows the anxiety within 15 to 30 minutes after the separation, but usually stopped after 45 minutes. This makes many dog owner never really realize (at early stage) that their dog have this, until they find the bitten furniture or their neighbor complaining about the barking problem.

What's The Reason Behind This?
Early Separation with Mother
Early separation with their mother can lead to this problem. A puppy who lost their mother too early may feel attached so much with their owner. When their owner gone (even for a while) the anxiety start taking control over their brain and causing lots of stress and panic then the destructive behavior associated with this problem will occur as a reaction of the anxiety.

It's in dog's nature to take care of their child until 8 weeks old, within this early age the puppy will cry or bark when get separated with their pack. This is their way to call the pack. Now if you buy a new puppy without the mother when the puppy's age less than 8 weeks old, what will happens? Barking and crying (at first) after realize that it is safe with you because you are going to take care of her, she will a bit calmed but slowly and silently she gets too much attached to you. This can cause the separation anxiety in the later age.

Parent Role
How often you see in some dog forums that a self proclaimed member as the mum/dad of their dog like: "I'm the mummy of {dog's name}!" it's quite often isn't it? That's how they show their love (by being the parent of their dog). However, such altitude can cause separation anxiety even more severe.

How this affecting the anxiety? It's because the behavior will make you (owner) perceive the dog as your own child; you will shower her with lots of love and give the sweetest greet once you come home. This makes the dog's thinks like the world revolve around her, and may perceive you are his child. Because in the real dog's world, the children will greets them first after both separated for a while (hunting for example). Once your dog thinks as the parent, she’ll get overly anxious when you leave. It’s just like a mother dog that lost her child (you), how do you think they feel and respond?

The second problem with such behavior is it'll "re-adjust" the balance between giving your attention and independent play. You'll spend just too much time together, and makes your dog attached to you even more. And the result is clear, higher degree of anxiety when you leave her alone.

Three reason Why Never Treats a Dog like a Child
First, Yes! I truly understand that they are so similar to a child, they respond to praise and affection so do a child. They need toys, space, education etc just like a child but treating a dog like a child can cause so much trouble for you and for your dog, so, it’s not worth it.

Second, you should treat your dog as a family member, but not as their parent! Having a new family member under your responsibility doesn't always mean considering them as a child isn't it? You still can take all the responsibility of their health (physically and psychologically), education, and other responsibilities without being the parent isn't it?

Third, dog is a dog and they supposed to be a dog. If you take them as a child, little or more you are "blocking" what they supposed to be, should you deny, block, or prevent your child's purpose? You shouldn't, it won't makes them happy even if it's better (for you).

Prevent the Development of Separation Anxiety
The treatment is quite simple; crate training can be a good place to make your og comfortable being alone. It'll give them some private space for you and your dog. Here the dog also learns how to fill their time alone (by playing with her chew toy or something) and develop more independent nature.

Another consideration is letting your dog to "explore" the area alone. Of course you should keep an eye in her in case she's approaching some danger (like running out to the street or getting too close to the pool) This will let your dog have "their own time" without you for a while.

How to Help Dogs with Separation Anxiety?
Finally we got to the main article, how to help your velcro dog? There are various way in helping your dog to suppress their anxiety while being alone. While it is actually a clinical problem (means you relieve help it with drugs) I prefer another approach, it's through the behavioral training.

Teach Tricks and Agility Training for Confidence Building
There are various tricks from the simple one like sit, to the quite complicated one like play dead or high five. There is various agility training from jumping the tires, poles training, seesaw, etc. All of these trainings can builds your dog's confidence, the praise they receive each time they follow your order makes them thinks that they "earn" it and feel like they can conquer the world! This confidence booster is something you need to make the dog feel safer while being alone, this also increase your bonding together (in a good way).

Patience Building with Sit-Stay or Down-Stay
Build patience in your dog's personality since early age. Teach "SIT" and let her stay for a while until you "BREAK" it. Start it quick like 30 seconds and increase as the dog's get older. I already posted an article about teaching sit in this blog.

"Replaying" Departure Behavior
What I mean by re-playing is trying to mimic or repeat your behavior before leaving the house like preparing your briefcase, drinking a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper, or picking up your keys. This is so useful because dog is an intelligent creatures with a good memory. They know when you'll leave after spending some times in "monitoring" your behavior before departure.

Once they get it, they'll start behaving like crazy when you do that behavior, because it's signaling them that you'll going to leave. The repetition is needed to alter this perception, makes them get used seeing you picking your key and doing your "departure behavior" but you're not leaving. Slow but sure, this will ease their minds before you leave.

Eliminate Your "Guilt" Before and After Leaving
I know how you feel if you have a velcro dog, you think like you "torture" her for your leaving. You shouldn't! You have some errands to do and some place you visit probably can't accept dog. So it's not entirely your fault.

To ease their guilt, some dog owner will give extra good-bye message and extra deal when they come home. Actually this only makes things worse. This will create a bigger disparity for your dog when you leave her. And it'll be better to make the good-bye and greeting short. In fact, ignore her for few minutes can do wonder, when you come home try to do your activity, and if your dog comes to you (not in over-excited greeting manner like jumping) you praise her. This will makes her thinks that her patience was worthwhile, and not reinforces the over-excited behavior (which is early sign of dog separation anxiety).

Read 116 times Last modified on Monday, 28 January 2019 09:20

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