Understanding and preventing separation anxiety
The incidence of separation anxiety problems has been estimated at 20% of the dog population and can have huge welfare implications. One problem with the diagnosis of separation anxiety is that we often must rely on indirect evidence, such as evidence of destruction or reports of barking by neighbours. Many of the problem behaviours occur in the absence of the owner. It is essential to review video evidence of the behaviours to ensure we have made the correct diagnosis.
A number of terms have been used to describe separation anxiety. Some refer to it as separation distress. Organisations such as the Dogs Trust refer to it as Separation related behaviours (SRBs). Others may mention separation anxiety distress or separation distress.
Separation related behaviours are unwanted behaviours when dogs are left alone.These terms refer to dogs that might be overly attached or dependent on family members. Some dogs with separation anxiety are said to try to remain close to their owners, follow them from room to room and rarely spend time outdoors alone. Dogs usually become anxious and show distress behaviours such as vocalisation, destruction, or inappropriate elimination when separated from their attachment figure.
Dogs may begin to display anxiety as soon as the attachment figure prepares to leave. It is also said that some dogs crave a great deal of physical contact and attention from their attachment figure.
During the human’s departure or separation, in addition to vocalisation, destruction and elimination, dogs may be restless, pacing from room to room, tremble, salivate, refuse to eat, or become quiet and withdrawn.
The course considers various research studies and the latest findings and suggestions for helping dogs with separation anxiety related behaviours all utilise force free methods. Learn how to improve welfare for dogs who suffer with separation anxiety related issues.
The course considers hyper attachment behaviours. This is when the puppy or dog become dependent on an attachment figure following an increase in availability. Teachers with dogs are a classic example – they are home for holidays and available to the dog every day. Term time resumes and suddenly the dog is left home alone again.
Common signs of hyper attachment are:
• Dog shadows owner
• Sensitive to pre-departure cues
• Excessive greeting on return
• Needing to be physically close to owner when settled
• Anxiety present if owner closes a door