Dealing with Dog Anxiety
A large number of dogs suffer from separation anxiety, a highly stressful behavioral problem that involves acting out when their owners are away. The key to putting an end to separation anxiety lies in establishing yourself as the pack leader. Many destructive or obnoxious behaviors that dogs exhibit are actually the result of separation anxiety. These behavioral problems vary widely, but in all cases they are extremely upsetting to the dog.
Rather than focusing on treating these behaviors, which are just symptoms of a larger underlying problem, it is worth taking the time to treat the root cause. If your dog only acts out when you are not around, chances are it has to do with you being away. Here are some of the symptoms that you may observe: Excessive Chewing – Chewing helps dogs feel calm by releasing endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in the brain. Barking or Whining – In most cases, this is your dog making an effort to call you back to the pack. It is similar to how you might call out to your children if they were missing. Running Away – Many dogs turn into escape artists when their owners are away from home. If this sounds like your dog, chances are he is out looking for you.
Exercise is sometimes prescribed to try to prevent dogs from escaping. Unfortunately, it rarely has the desired effect. Digging or Being Destructive – Dogs work out their stress and anxiety through destructive behavior. Self Mutilation – Your dog may excessively lick or chew their own body parts to the point that they injure themselves. Drooling more than usual can also indicate that your dog is highly stressed. Many times these symptoms are treated as medical issues, when in fact they are actually behavioral issues caused by anxiety. Improper Bathroom Habits – If your dog urinates or defecates in your home when they are already potty trained it may be due to anxiety. This is particularly true if the problem only happens when you are away from home.
Depending on what you read, there are countless different suggestions for how to deal with separation anxiety. In fact, however, there is only one solution that truly works. That solution is to firmly establish yourself as the pack leader. The underlying cause of separation anxiety is that your dog sees himself as the leader of the pack, and sees you as a lower member of the pack or as a puppy. Dogs naturally stick with the pack and don’t wander away in the wild. When you leave home, your dog misinterprets it, thinking that you have left the pack. This can cause them a tremendous amount of anxiety until you return. However, if your dog believes that you are the pack leader, you can leave anytime you want without causing them stress.