Let’s start by creating a story some of us might be familiar with.
Your dog has been lounging around the house perhaps chewing his/her favorite bone. This is something your dog does most every day and is nothing new.
You decide that you need to go out to the store to pick up some groceries. So you proceed to get dressed but as soon as you grab your wallet (or purse) or your car keys your dog starts jumping up and down and running around perhaps barking while looking at you. CLEARLY, he/she is telling you they are coming with you!
You peer down at your dog with feelings of guilt as you prepare to leave knowing you cannot take your dog with you this time. You know that your dog will be fine as this is just a quick trip to the store like you have done so many times before.
So with much regret in your voice, a few goodbyes, a few minutes of pats and cuddles and perhaps even a few
When you arrive home your neighbor is giving you the “EYE”. You already know what the dirty look was about as you have heard it all before……BARKING .. non stop the whole time you were gone.
You have heard about this and even read online about it
You tell yourself it’s not that bad and you he/she will grow out of it. Sadly after many months or years, nothing has changed or it has even gotten worse.
A common belief (though one I disagree with) is that Separation Anxiety is caused by boredom. I believe in most cases (90% or more) that the issue is related to leadership.
To make the issue easier to understand let’s use a human example:
A mother or fathers young child has just wandered outside alone. For some reason or other, the door won’t open and the parents are stuck inside the house.
What would their response be in this situation?
Would they be calm and relaxed about it? Absolutely not!
Would they perhaps get anxious?
Would they get stressed out and start shouting?
Would they pace back and forth?
At very least they would be quite worried and it would be a scary experience they would not soon allow to happen again.
Consider that many of a dog’s behaviors might be similar.
When your dog thinks he/she is in charge and is the leader (consider the parents) they feel it is their JOB to protect you (Like a parent protects a child). Your dog feels like they need to know where you are and what you are doing. How else could they ever protect you and keep you safe?
When they find themselves unable to protect you .. they do the natural thing and become stressed, anxious, start barking (shouting), pacing. Then when the stress becomes too much to handle they may destroy the nearest thing – like your furniture or pillows etc.
They might even pee or poop in the house – This could be done for reasons other than the need to relieve themselves. Some animals like wolves find their territory and den by smell and mark it with both pee and poop. In an attempt to help their “lost child” home your dog may poop or pee in the house hoping the smell will help guide you home.
Some people may have heard to give your dog a treat to keep them busy while you are gone. While this may give them something to do for a while depending on what they are given. It doesn’t address WHY they are acting the way they do.
Other methods focus around calming your dog down to help them relax. However, if we consider the parents and their children again for a minute. . . No amount of snacks, entertainment or calming techniques are going to help while their child is outside while the parents are stuck inside.
We need to focus on the cause of the issue. If you as the owner are the leader and your dog realizes his/her proper place under your leadership he/she can relax and realize that it does not matter where you are as it is not their “job” to watch over you. To follow our example the humans need to fill the role of parents (Leadership) and the dogs need to assume the role children (following the leader) as opposed to the dog taking the leadership position.
Does any of this sound familiar? Would you like to help your dog “switch off” and live a calm, relaxed and stress-free life?
I can help!
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