Separation Anxiety

How would I define separation anxiety?

And what is separation? It’s when you move away from your dog beyond the reach of its smell, sight, or hearing, causing it to feel alone without you. But… have you ever thought that perhaps it would have been best to start leaving it alone from the moment it arrived home, so that it could get used to spending a few hours entertained with a toy, listening to the radio softly, or even the television?

Let’s assume that separation anxiety is a serious behavioral problem that some dogs experience when left alone at home or separated from one or more of their owners. Certain dogs even show signs of anxiety simply from losing visual contact with their primary caregivers.

What does a dog feel when separated from its owner? Fear? Loneliness? Insecurity?… And what can these symptoms lead to?

I would say that some dogs, when left alone for the first time (and not accustomed to it), hide in a corner of the house, under the bed, and remain mostly still during the time their owners are away. It’s an instinct inherited from their wolf ancestors. Wolf cubs stay inside the den, their lair, without venturing out, hiding as they wait for their parents to return with maternal milk or the first meals regurgitated by their parents.

But it’s not always like that because in many cases, there are destructive behaviors such as tearing furniture, pots, shoes, or even remote controls, whining, howling, loud barking, or defecating in inappropriate places. These are unequivocal signs that the pet is suffering from separation anxiety.

“It is essential that a puppy or a new dog learns to be alone. This can be achieved by leaving it alone for short periods at first, even in a different part of the house.” If we create too much dependency on us, being with it all the time, it will be much harder for it to cope with separation when left alone at home. The dog must learn from the moment it arrives home that it is last in the family hierarchy and therefore must obey everyone above it. When it doesn’t get what it wants, it will protest by whimpering, barking, and even biting furniture, shoes, and even dangerous cables. It must be made to understand that it has its place and that the places of others are not all its own. The behavioral guidelines we implement with the puppy must always be consistent among all family members, otherwise, it will be confused and disoriented. For example, if it is decided that the dog should not climb onto the sofa or enter the bathroom, it must be firmly scolded with a NO. If it does not listen, it should be pushed out of the bathroom and told NOO!!!. The same applies to the sofa, etc. However, if we pick it up and pet it during those moments, it will understand that we liked what it did and will continue doing it.

The system of parks or folding cages works very well. That is, from the moment the puppy arrives home, it must have its park or a folding cage of at least 1 meter long by 60 wide and high prepared. We accustom it to spend time there from the very beginning, and it will be where it has its food. In the case of a cage, it will always serve to carry it in the car with it inside and it may even be its lair inside the house since they become attached to it and go inside by themselves…

The main factor that creates separation anxiety is the excessive dependence we create in the dog. And how have we made the dog so dependent on us? By dedicating much more time than necessary, holding it in our arms too much, constantly petting it, giving it dog treats… Let’s go back to the wolves, their ancestral origins that will always endure in their genetics. The she-wolf leaves the den, cave, or birthplace and leaves them completely alone; no other wolf lies with the wolf cubs while she is gone. At first, she returns very soon as she goes out to defecate and holds out for several days without eating. While the cubs do not stir, they remain still, dozing most of the time. They continue like this until at two weeks they begin to open their eyes and ears, when the exits of the mother are longer since she has to help in the hunt for the rest of the pack to eat well. As they grow, the time span lengthens until they are left alone for an entire day; but they instinctively know that their mother will return, even their father, some sisters from previous litters, etc. They do not protest, cry, whine, howl, bark, but when their mother arrives and the rest of the pack leaves the den and licks the muzzle of their mother to regurgitate the food. In the case of our puppy, from the outset, it must stay alone somewhere in the house where we are not, it will surely cry because it has been separated from its siblings, its mother, and perhaps another familiar dog; but its primitive genetics has prepared it for this and shortly it will relax and doze until we return to it. You should not put water or food for when you are alone because you already have the schedule assigned for it and in our presence, breakfast, lunch, and dinner until the three months, then breakfast and dinner up to the year and from the year only dinner with the corresponding daily amount. The food that you do not eat, you remove it, even if you have not eaten anything. He will not eat again until the next shift.

It is a confirmed mistake to spend 24 hours with the dog during summer, Christmas, Holy Week, long bridges, etc. Spend all the time with it. And then what? We have already accustomed it to be aware of us all day and when the workday begins, we leave in the morning and do not return until late in the evening, late … We will have created that anxiety, that emotional dependence. That is why I say again that since he arrives home, from the first night he has to sleep alone in his place, although he cries insistently, we cannot pick him up and bring him to our bedroom …

Ubrique, summer of 2022.

Antonio García Pérez.
Bachelor of Psychopedagogy (UCA)
Master in Psychology, Education, and Development (UCA)
Master in Dog-Assisted Therapy (US)
English Teacher.

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