What is Separation Anxiety/Distress?

There are two types of separation anxiety. In one type a dog has formed a strong attachment to a particular person or persons and becomes emotionally distraught to the point of having a panic attack when separated from them. In the other type, a dog has not formed a strong bond with any particular individual, but becomes distressed when left alone. In this case, a dog’s distress will ease if left with a person or possibly another dog. However care needs to be taken to diagnose correctly, as the addition of another dog could end up with two dogs suffering from separation anxiety. A diagnosis of separation anxiety can only be made by observation of physical and behavioural responses to being left alone. Separation anxiety is characterised by one or more of the following stress-related behaviours, any one or more of which happens every time the dog is left alone:· Destruction, especially around exit points or of items belonging to the owners

· Inappropriate urination and/or defecation, including diarrhoea

· Continuous vocalisation

· Whining and pacing

· Trembling or shaking

· Panting

· Hyper-salivation

· Dilated pupils

· Lack of appetite

· Vomiting

· Self-destructive behaviour

· Digging at exit points

· Hyperactivity

· Sweaty paws

· Depression or listlessness

· Obsessive compulsive behaviours

The dog may also show frenzied behaviour on the return of the owner.

If the behaviours do not occur every time the dog is being left, then it is not separation anxiety. It could be boredom, for instance.

Nicki Morey on Unhappy Alone

Dogs are social beings, it’s a natural behaviour for them to form bonds and to have close relationships. In addition to this they also rely on owners to fulfil all of their basic needs of survival: water, food, and warmth. Therefore it is important to teach the dog how to be alone, and to build a relationship of trust, so that the dog knows that regardless of what is going on, the dog’s needs will always be met. It cannot be expected for a new dog or puppy to know that when their owners go out, they will be coming back to feed and water them.Send away to mat is a good exercise for dogs who have separation issues, because they begin to learn that going away from you is rewarding. You can use a clicker for training but you can use a marker word like ‘ yes’ instead.To begin this exercise place a mat on the floor next to you and make it look interesting, if the dog goes to look at the mat, or put a foot on it, mark it and follow by throwing the treat to the side (this means that the dog is going away from you and it also sets up the dog to come back to the mat). Repeat the exercise several times. What you really want is the dog to have all four feet on the mat. Once the dog is reliably going to the mat and having all four feet on the mat you introduce the cue word ‘mat’. You then start to move further away from the mat and then give the cue ‘mat’ and the dog goes to the mat.Practice in different locations and practice sitting on the mat, down on the mat and standing on the mat, and staying on the mat. Each time, you add a new criterion, such as different location, or body position you will need to be nearer the mat, and then slowly add distance.

Pam’s Dog Academy – Separation Anxiety – mild case – positive reinforcement dog training

For more training advice we recommend : The Dog Training and Advice Group