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Separation anxiety in dogs: explanations

Separation anxiety is a common phenomenon in dogs. It is often due to an excess of attention in the newly adopted puppy. Indeed, thinking well, his master tends to want to excessively reassure this little doggie who has just separated from his mother. However, the latter has begun to establish the natural phenomenon of detachment, which the master must continue to prevent his animal from developing a hyper-attachment to him, which pushes him to see his master as his only referent and to become dependent on him. to the point of no longer supporting not having him permanently in his field of vision.

Separation anxiety causes anxiety and growing stress in dogs that make them fear each absence and encourage them to compensate for their suffering with “mistakes” and abnormal behavior. However, when this phenomenon is established, the animal is drawn into a spiral of terrible suffering which can push it to develop serious behavioral problems. Let’s take a look at this case.

Separation anxiety in dogs: what is it? What are the causes ?

Separation anxiety, also known as abandonment neurosis or of detachment disorder, is relatively common in puppies and dogs. The consequences of this disorder can be significant and particularly difficult to bear for the animal and for its master, but also for their neighborhood.

Puppy needs and natural detachment

Separation anxiety can have several explanations. To understand the reasons why this phenomenon can develop, it is necessary to look at the needs of the dog, and especially the puppy, from birth.

Indeed, the little puppy is entirely dependent on its mother during its first weeks of life. This natural bond soothes him, reassures him and allows him to grow and develop serenely with a loving being who teaches him to become a dog. This attachment then naturally transfers to its master who, once the little one is separated from its mother, raises it and takes the place of referent.

But this attachment is gradually changing. The female dog teaches each of her little ones to detach themselves from her gradually, not to get rid of her, but so that they learn to become autonomous and independent, to live and survive without her. To do this, once they are able to meet some of their basic needs on their own, she will respond less and less to their requests, she will push them away little by little and she will prefer to sleep at a distance. This natural process will allow the puppy to learn to detach and be ready to live his life as an adult dog.

Consequently, when he joins his master’s home, it is normal for him to postpone the attachment he had to his mother towards this new referent. It is also natural for the master to take care of his new little companion. On the other hand, do not go overboard and accept all the whims of the animalrespond immediately to all his requests or even cuddle him at all times.

Why ? Just because this excessive care does not allow the puppy to detach himself enough from his master. This one takes care of it as if it were an abandoned baby, but the puppy has already been used to natural detachment by its mother and is ready to continue this healthy process intended to bring it towards autonomy. . By making it a newborn again, in a way, it cannot evolve. He attaches himself to his master and the latter becomes his one and only reference, which pushes him to create an overdeveloped dependency.

As a result, the dog only sees through its master. This becomes his only landmark, his beacon. As soon as he is absent, he is lost and he develops separation anxiety, a kind of feeling of anxiety that leads to behavioral problems with disastrous consequences. The desperate animal becomes hyper-anxious, barks constantly and/or destroys the interior of the housing.

Hyperattachment and the attitude of the master

Of course, we do not invite dog owners to no longer take care of their little companion. No, it is only a question, as the mother did, of encouraging the animal to learn to become independent and of helping it to continue this learning already begun.

Many masters also tend to favor the phenomenon of attachment by committing certain behavioral errors. Many are used to making each departure and each return an event. As they leave, they reassure their doggie by explaining to him that they have to leave, but that they will be back very quickly. However, this is a mistake, because this behavior in no way reassures the animal, but on the contrary it will worry it. He then understands that something is wrong, that the fact that his master is absent is not normal since he needs to be reassured. Consequently, any gesture associated with leaving causes him growing anxiety (the shoes, the coat, the keys, etc.). The dog is stressed to see his master leave him.

On the return, the master is often happy and flattered that his animal makes him the party. As he feels guilty for having left him alone for a few hours, he responds to his requests and devotes time to him immediately to reassure him. Again, this only reinforces the idea that the absence was abnormal and cause for concern.

Moreover, if the doggie, lost to be alone, has done something stupid, his master tends to scold him. Big mistake! Any stupidity that is not caught in the act should not be punished or angered. The dog is unable to associate his owner’s anger with the behavior he had an hour or two before. On the contrary, scolding him will increase his anxiety. In this case, it is better to stay calm, ignore him and kindly send him to bed to clean up his stupidity, but especially not in front of him, because he would take it for a game!

It should also be noted that certain breeds of dogs, such as the Jack Russel, develop a strong dependence on their master. It is therefore essential to pay attention to it so as not to let bad habits take hold. Also, puppies that were separated from their mother too early and those that were abandoned are also more likely to suffer from this disorder.

How does separation anxiety manifest in dogs?

It is interesting to observe how this phenomenon manifests itself in the dog. If you’re not sure if your little friend is suffering from it, these signs may shed some light for you.

How does separation anxiety manifest in dogs in the presence of their master?

The animal that suffers from separation anxiety adopts a characteristic behavior in the presence of its master. Hypersticky, he follows him constantly and constantly seeks his attention. He waits for her in front of the toilet or bathroom door, moaning. At night, he sleeps with him or he lies down outside his door and cries.

When walking, he stays close to his master and never wanders away so as not to lose sight of him.

How does separation anxiety manifest in dogs when their owner is away?

In the absence of his masters, the dog who suffers from separation anxiety may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • he barks or moans;
  • he destroys objects, furniture, wallpaper;
  • he relieves himself in the dwelling;
  • he searches the garbage cans;
  • he can refuse to eat;
  • he compulsively licks his paws or pulls out his hair at this level.

What to do if your dog suffers from separation anxiety?

Your dog suffers from separation anxiety. To remedy this, you will have to gradually help him to detach himself from you, but you must not introduce new habits too suddenly, because he would be disoriented and this could favor the onset of more serious behavioral problems.

Here are the ideas that you can put in place to help your dog and teach him to be alone:

  • The lack of physical activity favors the phenomenon. It’s important to allow your pet to go out for walks with you for at least 30 minutes each day, and plan two to three longer walks per week. He will thus be able to exert himself and run to evacuate his overflow of energy.
  • In your absence, offer stimulating toys to your dog to relieve boredom. Choose toys that stimulate his intelligence and his physique to occupy him and vary them regularly.
  • When you leave and return home, don’t make it an event. Ignore your pooch for 10 to 15 minutes before and after so that your departures and returns become mundane moments.
  • Do not hesitate to play on false starts. We have said that your pooch is anxious to see you get ready before leaving. To help him no longer feel this oppressive stress, touch your keys, lace up your shoes or put on your coat, then put them away without going out. Your animal will thus understand that these elements are not necessarily associated with your absence.
  • When you return, don’t punish your pooch for his nonsense. He does not seek to provoke you, but he manifests his anguish and his suffering and he thus seeks your help.
  • Avoid letting your dog sleep with you. It is preferable that he spends his nights in another room.
  • You must be the source of the hugs. So do not always respond to the requests of your little companion. Initiate contact. Likewise, if he follows you everywhere, send him to his basket from time to time.
  • Do not hesitate to ask your veterinarian for advice and to be accompanied by a canine behaviorist. It is also possible to set up therapy and drug treatments to help the dog no longer suffer from this severe and debilitating anxiety.

Unfortunately, separation anxiety is one of the leading causes of abandonment. Some masters even opt for euthanasia to no longer have to put up with this behavior in their dog. Without understanding that they are, in large part, at the origin.

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