Does your dog have separation anxiety? We believe this is a very misunderstood “condition” and contrary to popular belief it is reversible in most cases. If your dog, or one you know is experiencing anxiety (destructive behaviour, barking, escaping, chewing, digging, self harm, howling etc) when left alone, high chances are they fall into this category.
We are very concerned that vets are prescribing drugs too often and too early and for too long for this, and in our opinion drugs are not a satisfactory or necessary long term solution and only target the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause. As valuable as vets can be in the overall treatment of our dog’s health, we need to keep in mind that they (like doctors) are coming from a purely medical perspective and are trained to identify and deal with medical SYMPTOMS - not from a holistic or preventative perspective, and most aren’t able to properly deal with psychological disorders. If your child had an anxiety disorder for example, I’m sure we would agree that a child psychologist would be far more appropriate and effective than your local GP.
From much experience (and many case studies) and success, we find that separation anxiety in dogs is predominantly a relationship issue NOT a dog training issue or a mental disorder! In the same way that humans can create or experience dysfunctional relationships with each other such as co-dependency, panic attacks etc we can certainly accidentally /unknowingly create these same relationship issues with our dogs and it needs to be dealt with from a psychological perspective. Like most conditions, the earlier it is identified and treated the better and quicker the result, however every dog is unique, and even in severe cases we have seen amazing turnarounds in very short periods of time.
We do agree that in specific, severe cases (eg when the dog’s safety is at risk or help is needed immediately), drugs can provide temporary relief of symptoms but it is vital that the root cause is addressed as soon as possible. In rare or severe cases, even when a dog may not achieve a 100% recovery there are always positive changes we can make and there are many alternative options, such as change of environment, rehoming, adding another dog or a total change in lifestyle. Long term drug use or euthanasia is in our opinion completely unnecessary and should be the last resort! An experienced, professional psychologist who specialises in canine training (behaviourist) should be consulted before this is even considered.
Please phone us for advice and help if you feel your dog is suffering from this (or if you’re not sure) and we can explain how we can help you and your dogs behaviour.
Author: Emma Tucker
Emma has a deep understanding and passion for dog and human psychology and the way these relationships reflect each other. Her knowledge of dog behaviour is 2nd to none.