Rovers Return Training Academy

Separation Anxiety In Dogs - Part 1

Separation struggles in dogs come in many forms. This is why the term ‘separation anxiety’ isn’t fitting for most of the struggles that owners face.

In some cases, it is an intense fear of either being alone or away from a specific person. Sometimes it’s hyper-attachment to a person and some mild symptoms may manifest.

The most effective description of separation struggles is that it is a change in behaviour when you are not at home, or in a different space from the dog.

A better term would be to describe the behaviour as separation-related behaviours.

You probably notice the barking, the destruction of the home when you return, the defection and urination.

But what about the more subtle behaviours? I will identify these in another post in the near future.

 How is SRB (separation-related behaviours) diagnosed?

  1. Is there a change in the behaviour when you leave? It can occur before you even step foot out of the house. Dogs are experts at predicting outcomes. We are creatures of routine. Your dog will learn your routine when you leave and the issues begin when the dog predicts that you are going out.
  2.  A study in 2010 (Blackwell et al) found that 33% of people who didn’t think their dogs suffered found that after filming their dog, it revealed that their dogs had SRB. Have you tried filming your dog when you leave?
  3. A study in 2013 by Palestrini et al found that dogs displayed behaviours within 10 minutes of being left alone. If there has been barking or destruction after this time it was due to boredom and can be solved by increasing activities when alone, or having a dog walker. This would make little difference overall to a dog with true SRB.
  4. Do they eat and drink when alone? If the answer is yes, it’s unlikely to be SRB. If they will not eat or drink anything for the entire time you are away it is highly likely to be SRB

What are the risk factors for developing SRB (and ones that are not)

  1. A single owner has been found to be a risk factor. (Dodman et al 2001)
  2. I was always told that early removal from the mother causes SRB, however, this has not been proven to be a factor
  3. Following you around the home is a risk factor. Does your dog move when you do? 
  4. Having a rescue dog has been found NOT to be a risk factor for developing separation-related behaviours.
  5. Spoiling your dog (whatever that may be for you individually) is NOT a risk factor for SRB.
  6. Cognitive decline. around 10 years and above you may see an increase in SRB
  7. Pups early development. between 1-3 weeks the siblings stick together like glue. At 4 weeks old the explore on their own, and at 5 weeks they actively seek to have time away from siblings and owners. Breeders should allow this as should you when your puppies come home. They should be allowed and encouraged to have time on their own. 

Check out the info coming up next week.

If you are having issues or you are not sure of it SRB book your discovery call!