First, we can start with a definition of anxiety, fear, and phobia and whether we can use these terms interchangeably in dogs? True fear always involves avoidance, with an intent to decrease the probability of social interaction. This is in contrast to anxiety, where avoidance is not the first choice. Dogs that are driven primarily by anxiety may put themselves into a social situation although it makes them uncomfortable and worried. Fear and anxiety have signs that overlap. Some non-specific signs like lowering of the back shaking and trembling can be characteristic of both fear and anxiety. Phobias involve profound, non-graded, extreme response and manifest as intense avoidance, escape, or anxiety and associated with the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Anxiety, in general, is broadly defined as the apprehensive anticipation of future danger or misfortune. Non-specific signs of anxiety include: Urination, defecation ,anal sac expression, panting, increased respiration and heart rates, trembling/shaking, muscle rigidity (usually with tremors,lip licking, nose licking,
grimace (retraction of lips), head shaking, smacking or popping lips/jaws together, salivation, vocalization, yawning, freezing, pacing or hiding.
Separation anxiety can be defined as physical, physiological and/or behavioral signs of distress exhibited by the
animal only in the absence of, or lack of access to the owner. The diagnosis is confirmed if there is consistent, intensive destruction, elimination, vocalization, or salivation exhibited only in the virtual and/or actual absence of the
owner. In virtual absences the owner is present but the dog does not have access to the client (e.g., a door is closed). How common is separation? Estimates are that 10-20% of dogs could experience it at some point, and some people estimate that affected dogs could go as high as 30%. Most dogs are distressed within the first 30 minutes of being left. We tend to see most behavioral conditions appear as full blown conditions as the dog is undergoing social maturity but puppies 4-6 months of age can also show separation anxiety. It can be related genetically.
While there are attachment concerns for some types of separation anxiety, ignoring the dog is a disaster. Instead, people need to learn the signs of calm behavior versus anxious behavior and only reward calm throughout. Dogs that are anxious may look normal part of the time, but they may not be and the best time to teach a dog that they do not have to be distressed is when they are not frantic. If the owner knows that the dog can be left for four hours without elimination, but not six hours, the client knows that – for now – he needs to avoid longer absences. Avoidance is key in the treatment of all behavioral problems since every time the behavior - no matter how undesirable or abnormal - is repeated, the dog will be reinforced for the behavior. Practice reinforces learning and is reinforced. Logs are best used in combination with video surveillance because some signs are much easier for clients to note than others. Dog sitters, dog walkers, day care, boarding, pet sitting by a older child who is not otherwise allowed to have a dog may all be options that could mitigate the dog’s distress. If the dog likes crates, will go into a crate willingly, can sleep and eat in a crate, and is calm when in a closed and locked crate, crating or gating the dog may be part of the solution.
Not all dogs can be crated. Many dogs will break their nails or teeth attempting to get out of the crate, and dogs have killed themselves by becoming entangled in or impaled on the crate if they panic. Clients should not even consider using a crate as a management strategy for dogs with separation anxiety unless they can video the dog responding as stated when they are home and not with the dog for hours at a time. The risk of gating or crating a dog who views this as entrapment rather than security is huge, and in such cases, it will always make the dog worse. No dog who is crated should wear a lead or collar of any kind because if the dog becomes distressed these pose strangulation hazards. No dog with separation anxiety should be tied. Tied dogs are at increased risk of injury or death from strangulation if they become distressed. Food toys may be good indicators of when dogs start to improve enough to eat, but they are not a treatment for separation anxiety. Dogs who are profoundly distressed cannot eat. If a fresh food toy is left for the dog daily, the day he starts to use it indicates that he was sufficiently less distressed to be able to take food and so to be rewarded for less
People inadvertently reward anxious behaviors for two common reasons. 1. They think the dog is just seeking their attention and they don’t distinguish between dogs who want attention and those who need it, so the latter group of dogs is
inadvertently rewarded for anxious, pesky behaviors. 2. They recognize that the dog is distressed and they are seeking to reassure the dog. Unless the dog is rewarded only when calm, anxious behaviors are also being reinforced, resulting in a miscommunication. Recommendations for the treatment of separation anxiety usually include an instruction to teach the dog to ignore ‘departure cues’. The intent of these ‘departure cues’ is to desensitize dogs who are already sensitized to cues that signal the client’s departure – to such cues. Common cues that cause dogs distress can include packing or picking up a briefcase, putting on sunglasses, picking up the car keys, et cetera. If the clients can identify cues that cause the dog to begin to worry – including setting an alarm the night before a departure and if they are successful in their initial behavior modification efforts they may be able to use desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to help the dogs not react to these triggers.
With separation anxiety , puppies are more susceptable when there is a drastic change in attention. Initially many people make the mistake of constantly fussing with and paying attention to the new arrival. And this can go on for weeks. Then suddenly they are forced to be separated in an abrupt manner. It is essential to leave them alone for brief and frequent times at this early age. Leave them after a good workout ,walk and tire them out. Leave them with a yummy kong. But slowly add the time duration.
S.A. is workable . The treatment depends on how severe it is. True S. A. is generally deemed to be when they have panic attacks , elimination , chewing on furniture etc, and constant vocalization. If the dog has these sort of episodes, it might be best to get a professional in. This is when a formal program of desensitizaion is done. At this point most dogs become stressed well before you leave. They have learned all the signs that indicate that you are about to leave. They know you are leaving before you know you're leaving, LOL. The dog will start to display certain anxious signs ,eg, panting, pacing, drooling or whining. And here is where a professional will slowly desensitize the dog to these triggers. He will repeat these trigger events by making the dog comfortable by not taking the next step in the departure routine. Gradually the dog is taken one step further in departure process . Eventually real departures are incorporated. It's a slow process but it is quite often succesful. Some dogs are just more anxious than others. Separation anxiety is quite often brought on by our constant attention to them. We have bred dogs to be social and this has come along with the ride.
You can't reward the dog once you are HOME for being calm while you are GONE. All this will do is teach the dog to get aroused in anticipation of your arrival and then become more aroused due to your excited greeting. One of The objectives of an SA program is to remove excitement from comings and goings. As for rewarding good behavior while you we gone...if it's not effective to punish accidents and/or destruction after the fact, it is also ineffective to reward after the fact. Reinforcement and punishment are time sensitive. They have to follow in close proximity. For many stressed-out dogs, the same mechanism is at work. But chewing provides stress relief for dogs, and in many cases, despite their stress, dogs will excavate stuffed Kongs, gnaw on chew bones, or work at food-dispensing toys. If you stuff a Kong or other food dispenser for your dog, place the item within easy reach and lay out a short trail of super yummy treats leading to it. This trail o’ treats is more likely to entice your dog to begin chewing than leaving the Kong lying there by itself.
Whether getting a second dog will alleviate the anxiety of the first depends largely on whether the original dog’s distress stems from being separated from a particular person (what we typically think of as separation anxiety), or from simply not wanting to be left alone, which is more accurately called isolation distress. In the case of the latter, any warm body will do. That’s good news, as the problem might be solved by the presence of a different person, another dog, or, in some cases, even a cat. So for a dog with isolation distress, getting another dog certainly could help; but there is always the chance that it won’t; and, in the worst-case scenario, you could end up with two dogs with separation issues!
The following is from Parthasarathy and Davis study ... Dogs’ dysfunctional attachment relationships with their owners are assumed to be the underlying cause of separation anxiety. Thirty-two dogs with and 43 dogs without owner-reported separation anxiety (SA) participated in a formal attachment test (AT). After the AT, the dogs were videotaped for 30 minutes while alone at home. Dogs left free in the house were scored on how long they were in proximity to the owners’ exit doors. Dogs who were crated or closely confined were scored on several anxiety-related behaviors, which were then compared to those dogs’ behaviors during the attachment test. Dogs with SA spent no more time in contact with or proximity to their owners during the attachment test than dogs without SA (P>0.05). Instead, they tended to jump up on the door after the strangers left the room and remain stationary when alone with their owners (P<0.05). There was no significant difference (P>0.05) between SA and non-SA dogs in the amount of time spent in proximity to the owners’ exit doors when left alone at home. Dogs crated at home showed no relationship between the amount of anxiety-related behaviors during the AT or at home (P>0.05). There was no significant difference in the type of proximity-seeking behaviors exhibited by dogs with and without SA in the home . These finding suggest that separation anxiety is not based on “hyperattachment” of the dog to the owner, but that a different attachment style may be present between dogs with and without SA.
Separation distress is the most common and is a little easier to modify than full-on separation anxiety which will invariably require veterinary intervention along with behaviour modification. If in doubt consult a qualified behaviour professional or just ask us for help! It’s critically important that a problem behavior be correctly identified prior to the implementation of a behavior modification program. It does no good to try to modify separation anxiety if that’s not really the problem. Distress over being left alone is not always a full-blown separation anxiety problem. First, a dog may suffer from a mild distress to a severe anxiety disorder. “Distress” indicates a lower intensity of stress behaviors when the dog is alone, while “anxiety” is an extreme panic attack. The distinction between “isolation” and “separation” is equally important. Isolation distress means the dog doesn’t want to be left alone - any ol’ human will do for company, and sometimes even another dog will fill the bill. True separation distress or anxiety means the dog is hyper-bonded to one specific person, and continues to show stress behaviors if that person is absent, even if other humans or dogs are present.
There are a number of drugs that can aid in conjunction with a behavioural modification program and this should be done with a vet and behaviour specialist working together with your program you have in mind. Many people find the best way to go is to consult with someone who specializes in behavioral issues. Here are some options:
Consult an animal behaviorist. An animal behaviorist attempts to understand the reason for the behavior by considering the animal's history, temperament, environment, experience, etc. After making a diagnosis, a behaviorist would help you understand the way animals learn, and how you can work specifically on the behavior problem to control and/or correct it. You can ask your vet for a local referral or visit the Animal Behavior Society website at: http://www.animalbehavior.org/Applie...directory.html
Work with a trainer. A trainer works differently than an animal behaviorist. In most cases, a behaviorist is more appropriate for help with a serious behavior problem. If no animal behaviorist is available locally, and you want to work with someone in person, check out the programs of local trainers. Trainers vary in their experience, services, and training techniques. Make sure that you are comfortable with the person you'll be working with. Information on choosing a trainer, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) can be found at Certification for professional dog trainers and behavior consultants