Posts Tagged ‘separation anxiety’

Separation Anxiety?

January 12th, 2014 at 10:13 am by Diane Rich

Or Is It?

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c Diane Rich 2014

Definition
 With regard to dogs, separation anxiety or S.A. is a psychological term used to describe behaviors presented due to a pet’s stress and anxiousness brought on by separation from that pet’s owner or caretaker.

Severe Cases
The behaviors presented can be mild to severe.  A severe case could be one where the dog cannot cope with her person being out of site at all, follows that person from room to room and falls apart if that person leaves them alone at home or sometimes alone in a car.

Mild Cases
Some pups or newly adopted dogs may present mild S.A. behavior in their new home.  As they become more comfortable in their new surroundings they learn to manage quite well without being their person’s shadow.  A mild case that can become a more severe case could be a situation where the dog is fine as long as that person is somewhere within the home but when that person leaves the house, the dog’s anxiety level increases to a highly agitated state.  Some dogs may cope well if their person leaves them for short periods rather than all day.

Professional Help May be in Order
There is quite a bit of information on separation anxiety online which may give you some guidance to assess  your dog on your own.  S.A. unfortunately is a common label given dogs that present certain behaviors usually in the absence of an owner. Just because your dog destroyed a pair of your favorite shoes when left alone, that particular act may not mean your dog suffers from S.A.. So, if the dog is misdiagnosed as other variables are not included in the total evaluation process and the owner opts out of professional help and behaviors become unmanageable, that dog unfortunately may find its way to a shelter.

A Few Behaviors That May Be Related to S.A.
The behaviors owners believe are due to by S. A are usually barking, howling or whining heard when that owner is just outside of their home. Or upon returning home, the owner may see the dog has had accidents in the house or destroyed anything from a shoe or dog bed to chewing through drywall.  The owner may even hear from neighbors, or by an anonymous note the dog has incessantly barked or howled for hours on end.

axel ripped up pillow in car 9-10c
c Diane Rich 2014

Why?
Is S.A. inherited, a trait more common in certain breeds, a behavior the dog developed before the new owner purchased or acquired the dog or something an owner inadvertently created?  Pet parents who find it endearing to have an overly attached dog contribute to this problem.

Treatment
For the answers, my suggestion is to talk with an experienced Veterinary Behaviorist or a trainer who is a behavior expert so you can get an accurate evaluation of the dog and an evaluation of your relationship with the dog.  Otherwise someone could just slap a label on your dog and may make suggestions that either will not work or could exacerbate the problem.

Why is it imperative for a pet parent to get an accurate evaluation from a behavior expert?  If an owner punishes their dog for behaviors that the dog presents due to stress and anxieties the condition usually worsens.

Your Vet may recommend medication to help calm the dog in your absence but if the Vet just throws a pill at the problem without referring you to a behavior expert you and your dog will most likely fall short of a successful outcome. The medication may take the edge off, but meds alone will not help the dog learn to cope with specific anxieties without the implementation of a sound behavioral modification plan that is monitored by a specialist.  You may be able to find a Veterinary Behaviorist in your area who can not only prescribe medication but give you a specific behavioral modification plan and will closely monitor results.

No Quick Fixes
I have worked with S.A. cases for many years and find it incredibly rewarding to help dogs learn to cope with their environment and everyday life.  I am hopeful if your dog has been carefully evaluated by a behavior expert who finds that the dog does suffer from  separation anxiety, you have the patience to see it through with their help.  There are no quick fixes. Improvement or total success will take as long as it takes with a proper diagnosis, treatment plan, tweaking the plan if necessary and your due diligence and love.

Should you parent a dog with separation anxiety I wish you good luck and patience.

Speaking woof,
Diane
Diane Rich Dog Training, LLC
www.spokesdog.com
askdiane@spokesdog.com
www.twitter.com/spokesdog

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Thinking of Buying Littermates?

April 16th, 2012 at 8:23 am by Diane Rich

Two Pups Don’t Always Double Your Pleasure

cDiane Rich 2012

Pet parent reasons for buying littermates;
1.They were so cute and I couldn’t resist or I could not decide on which one so bought two
2.The breeder suggested I take two
3.I feel guilty because I am away from the house at work and don’t want the puppy to be lonely

 Most breeders will not sell an owner littermates no matter how much an owner begs and opens the almighty checkbook.  If the breeder recommends you buy two littermates, run don’t walk from that person.

Responsible breeders may on a rare occasion consider selling two littermates to someone they know has the experience and knowledge to raise littermates correctly.

Most trainers, including myself discourage raising littermates or two pups together. They can become what some call “doggie” or develop what is classified as “littermate syndrome.”  This is where the dogs rely on each other and do not bond as well with the owners as they become become overly dependent on each other. They can feed off of each other’s behavior, model both good and bad behavior and can develop severe attention seeking behaviors.


cDiane Rich 2012
The two dark pups are littermates and we first trained privately which proved successful. The barking issues, which started as attention seeking behavior stopped along with other problematic behaviors. Then, after graduating my private program, the owners wanted to attend one of my puppy classes together and I agreed assuming they were still applying the strategies outside of class. In this photo, one pup is hiding by one parent while the more confident one opts to socialize.  Once class was over, I had heard that the more confident pup modeled the other pup’s insecurity and both became very fearful of other dogs.  Sadly, the owners opted out of continuing strategies to help build the pup’s confidence and no longer separated the pups. The severe barking and anxiety returned with a vengence along with other behavioral problems.
cDiane Rich 2012

If owners of littermates or two young dogs do not take the time to bond and train each pup separately, the pups do not usually reach their full potential and their emotional growth can be stunted.

If the pups are always together, separation anxiety as mentioned above develops when they are separated.  Something to think about; What happens if one dog needs to stay over at the Vet or is just sick and cannot be around the other dog?

cDiane Rich 2012
Should you opt for littermates it is best to get one male one female and supervise interactions. If you buy two like genders, then you must step up to the plate and make sure you supervise interactions to address any fights as they mature through adolescence.

To raise littermates properly takes time. Unfortunately, the guilt of an owner’s lack of time is one reason why many well meaning pet parents get two in the first place. Keep in mind, that it is important to fulfill a dog’s needs. 

For the first 12 months in raising littermates, I strongly recommend
1.Separate crates
2.Separate food bowls, feed separately so each dog can relax and finish their bowl of food
3.Train one at a time and train together so each puppy listens to you when alone or together. If you choose classes over private training, it is best to take them to different classes
4. Play with each pup separately. They need 1:1 interaction with their human.
5. Exercise/walk one at a time. They can certainly play together with supervision and best to allow this after exercise.
6. Socialize each pup separately with other dogs. You will notice one dog will be the more assertive one and the other pup will defer to that leader.

These suggestions are very time consuming but think of the guilt you will feel if after not doing what is right by the dogs, they cannot do well together or separately and you may have to consider rehoming one of them?  

After a good 12 months of 1:1 bonding time, 1:1 training, separate outings, supervised play time, training the pups together, socializing the pups with other dogs separately, living harmoniously with littermates may be attainable.  You then, hopefully have created two secure, confident dogs. Should you choose to still buy littermates I sincerely wish you the best of luck and hope it works out well.

Supervision during play is suggested through a dog’s adolescence and in some cases for life.

Good Luck!
Woof,
Diane
Diane Rich Dog Training, LLC
www.spokesdog.com
askdiane@spokesdog.com
www.twitter.com/spokesdog

 

 

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About Diane Rich

I have been training dogs and their people for over 25 years. I work with pups from 7 weeks old to senior plus dogs and offer basic obedience to advanced off leash training both privately and group classes. Other services include behavior consultations to help both ends of the leash with everything from aggression, puppy/dog manners and public manners to separation anxiety. As a "real world" dog trainer, I take training out of the classroom or home when both the pet and family are ready, and take training to the street. I also offer pet therapy training classes preparing both the handler and dog for their therapy test and future service as a therapy team. I also coordinate several pet therapy programs in the Seattle area. My complete bio, description of services, class dates and on line class registration is listed on my website at www.spokesdog.com.

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