Separation anxiety is one of my favourite things to help owners and their dogs overcome. However there are a lot of myths surrounding this little understood behaviour problem so I thought I would go through some of them now.
1. Your dog knows they have done something wrong as they look guilty when you get home.
The “guilty look” that we think we get from our dogs is one of the biggest myths about dogs. Our dogs are highly evolved to live with us, but they don’t experience guilt. The behaviours they display when we see this look are actually appeasement gestures because they are worried about what you might do and they are trying to stop you punishing them. This is the case whenever you think that your dog is looking guilty.
2. Puppies don’t experience separation anxiety.
Unfortunately, they do and we need to spend the first few weeks making sure they feel happy and settled and if we notice any signs that they are not coping to call a behaviourist in as soon as possible to help and not hope that they will grow out of it.
3. He is doing it to get back at you for leaving him.
Our dogs are clever animals, but they are not plotting these behaviours to get back at you… Instead they are doing this as they are panicking and stressed.
4. Food toys will fix it.
In most cases dogs suffering from separation anxiety won’t eat when you leave them so they won’t help.
5. Crate training will fix it…
Although you might not see the problem so much, they won’t be able to destroy your home to escape. They are still going to be stressed, and in so many cases the feeling of being trapped will make the problem worse…
6. Your dog needs a canine friend
This doesn’t help, and in some cases the second dog learns to be stressed when left so we need to be careful when we are thinking of getting a second dog. Only ever get a second dog because you want a second dog.
7. If you let him bark it out, he will eventually learn to settle
Again, like the crate, this is more likely to make the problem worse. It isn’t going to magically fix it.
8. You caused the anxiety
There is no evidence that you caused this behaviour, but you can be the solution.