By Tracy Baldwin (ABCDT) for Rebound Hounds
Separation anxiety can occur in any dog, in any breed, with any background/history and at any age. Rescued dogs, shelter dogs and dogs who have been bounced around from home to home often show signs of SA (Separation Anxiety) stemming from the lack of consistency in their lives and all the stress they have felt. Once dogs are in our homes, the typical reasons for SA to appear or to escalate are: giving comfort to a nervous/insecure/stressed out dog, being excited and emotional when we come and go, allowing our dogs to follow us everywhere and be near us all the time (the Velcro Dog) and the big ones … LACK OF OVERALL RULES/BOUNDARIES/STRUCTURE and TOO MUCH UNEARNED AFFECTION. It’s important to realize that SA is not the problem but rather a symptom of the bigger issues listed above.
While it may be difficult for us to deal with the barking/whining and destruction that is often the outcome of dogs with SA, imagine what it’s like for the dog. If a dog is exhibiting signs of SA, it means they are stressed and anxious and have no skills to cope with those feelings. Their brains are not calm and they are feeling panicked. It’s an awful feeling for them, just like having panic attacks is awful for us. They need to release the buildup of stress and unless we teach them how to cope with being alone/independent, they will figure out a way to do it on their own. Barking, whining and being destructive is an easy way for them to accomplish an “anxiety dump”. It’s our job, as our dogs’ guardians, to help them cope with our comings and goings and to teach them to learn to exist without us always by their side. We need to create a less dramatic contrast between when we are home and when are gone. The best way to do that is to have a balance between affection/love and rules/structure.
We can’t expect a dog who has free access to their humans all day in the form of couch privileges, affection whenever they want and following us around wherever we go to be able to “flip the switch” and cope when we leave. Creating a “calm mind” in our dogs’ is not difficult but it takes time, consistency and patience. Like all training, helping a dog who has SA is a process and because all dogs are individuals, time frames for success will vary.
Starting our dogs off on the right foot is the easiest way to curb SA and even prevent it from happening. When bringing a new foster/adopted dog into our home, it is crucial to set the tone for living in our home the moment you walk through the door.
Since our inception in November 2010, Rebound Hounds has saved over 2,000 dogs.
There are many ways you can help us fulfill our mission. From fostering, to adopting, to assisting with transport, please contact us to get involved!
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