Cause of Separation anxiety in dogs……A simple explanation
I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day and I overheard a conversation, I wasn’t eaves dropping, but this lady was discussing with her friend her dog’s behavior. She described Separation anxiety(SA) to a T, and I was almost going to refer them to this blog, but her friend said something that just made me wonder.
The lady had explained her situation and like most people would do, asked her friend why she thought her Toto, (yes that is the dogs name), Had These behavioral issues. I guess at this point Toto has torn up some blinds, scratched the door to its bare bones, and even tried to jump through the window when she pulled into the driveway.
Her friend’s response to the Cause of her dogs Separation anxiety was astounding, I couldn’t believe what I heard, She said “It’s because you let Toto sleep in your bed. That’s the root of the problem with separation anxiety”.
Wait what? That’s not even a………I really hope that people don’t believe that.
Let’s Dive in!
Genetics……. Yeah, yeah, but they are not born with it.
Every Breed is born with certain characteristics, certain things inside their genetic code that help define their personalities, and breed traits. For example, my American Staffordshire Terrier (AST) has a profile that contains the following elements:
- High energy
- Good nature
This simply means that they are more prone to behavioral issues, and may need some extra care. This basically means that her specific breed, is predestined for behavioral issues that attain to those elements. You can check your dog’s temperament on the American Kennel Clubs Website.
Aside from a specific breed having temperament traits, each type of dog, i.e. terrier, hound, etc, all have different characteristics as well.
For Instance, Juniper (My AST) fares well with other Terriers, (one of the reasons she gets along with Buster (my terrier mix) so well) of mine get along so well, they are all terriers.) They also happen to be slightly difficult to train because of their stubborn aspect.
This Character profile does not mean that a dog is born with separation anxiety at all, it does mean that certain breeds are more prone to these types of behavioral issues because of their natural characteristics. This is how genetics plays a huge part in their behavioral profile.
Abandonment……….If you do this, good day to you, you can leave now!
Some people treat dogs and cats as objects…..I know crazy right. None the less, more dogs wind up in shelters because of behavior issues than any other reason. The thing about these behavior issues is that they can be fixed, it just takes a little TLC, and commitment.
Some people have busy lives, a ton of other things going on and maybe can’t find the time, its okay, we don’t judge here. The solution is simple, don’t adopt if you can’t take care of them! It’s okay, its not for everyone. It’s not fair to the dog and it causes more issues.
If I had to pick a number one reason, I would say abandonment would be the number one cause of SA in dogs.
Let’s get real here for a moment, think about how you feel in your life right now. How everything is safe, consistent, and secure. Imagine if you came home to find out that you no longer have a home, and your entire family that you grew up trusting was putting you in a cage with strangers. You no longer get to eat your favorite meals, have your favorite snacks, and you don’t really know what to expect. Your locked up in jail for no reason, and no way out. You must suddenly deal with the reality that your entire life just changed overnight, and everything you knew is gone.
That’s pretty depressing isn’t it, but wait someone comes along and says, “Hey I will love this guy” and takes you home, you have a new home, new toys, new treats, but then suddenly, it happens again.
Yeah, your self-confidence would tank, your emotional security would go out the window, and you probably wouldn’t trust the next person that came along and took you home……
How do you think the dog feels? When you adopted him, the last time they would ever be adopted, hopefully. The dog may have baggage from previous ownership that they can’t communicate to you.
If you absolutely must give up your dog, the best way is to give them to a close family member that the dog is familiar with, and of course you want to visit them. A dog who has lost their home is in mourning, and really has no idea what to expect from the new home.
The sad thing is, that some people adopt, bring them home, and then decide that they can’t deal with the behavioral changes of the dog. This causes them to bring the dog back to the shelter and the cycle starts over again. If you are not sure whether or not you can handle a dog then don’t adopt one, Just don’t. don’t take the dog!
Okay, sorry….we got a little passionate there. It’s a horrible cycle that really needs to be broken.
Previous Trauma……Before you, of course.
This is a crazy world, and you can’t always be home with the dog when tragedy strikes. Sometimes it’s just an act of nature that can cause the dog to not feel safe when home. Something so small, for example, a hurricane, or a fourth of July celebration.
I think the most traumatic thing is being away from the mother before the puppy is ready, every young pup needs their birth mother until they are a minimum of 8 weeks old, the entire litter should be kept together.
Even the death of a previous owner can make a dog feel alone. They may even develop a fear of leaving a person they care about alone, Simply because they may be afraid that person may find an unruly end in thier absense.
It happens to us all, we get to those golden years, so do your furry friends. Senior dogs can feel inadequate, unmotivated, and even fearful of what lies beyond the door. I have a lab mix (named Lad), and his anxieties have taken a turn for the worst after he turned 9. Every year around 4rth of July his anxiety gets really high, and he hides anywhere he can. He went from simply laying next to me, to running around the house, to actaully hiding. All you can do at this point is love them and try to use positive assimilation to re-enforce positive feelings of security.
Dogs can also develop Alzheimer’s which can cause a dissonance in their normal routines. Basically, they forget your gone, and then they can’t find you. They can forget where they live house, they can forget everything they have known and go back to the days they were a little puppy.
Change in the environment….sometimes even just a little
This should go without saying,but if there was a recent change in the environment, such as the addition of a new pet, anxiety can be a behavioral response to the change.
Here’s a scenario, as an example; You are employed, have a good job and your home nightly at 6pm every day for three years. You receive a promotion at work that requires you to stay an extra two hours a day and travel 40% of the time. Your dog has no Idea what is going on, all they know is that you’re not home at your normal time and something is different. This miniscule change can cause anxiety for a period of time. The change of feeding times, or even seeing you walk through the door. The sudden lack of your presence and inconsistency of your schedule can cause the dog to exhibit some behavioral changes.
When there is someone constantly home and then suddenly everyone is gone, Your dog can feel alone, and anxious while waiting for someone’s return.
Lets Bring it in
I took in one lesson here from all of this.
Ignore all the rumors you hear about separation anxiety “can’t” be changed, or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” (you can actually i have done it). Most are just fallacies that have been spread over the years.
A dog is a wonderful companion to have in your life, but they are living, breathing, creatures with their own quirks and personalities just like a child. Understanding this one thing is what can lead to a long and lasting friendship between you and your paw-panion.
The key takeaway here is that your dog can be cured of seperation anxiety most likely without the use of medication, or holistic substances. It just takes time, patience, consistency, understanding, reassurance, and all the TLC you can possibly give them.
Next learn to treat Separation anxiety in your pets But you are going to need some resources. The number one resource I recommend is knowledge. Knowledge is going to be your best friend in helping your paw panion. I did a Review on a book that will most likely help you in your Journey. The book Don’t leave me! by Nicole Wilde is an excellent choice to get you started.