Separation Anxiety in Dogs: What Does It Mean?
Separation anxiety in dogs is often misdiagnosed. If you think you have a dog with separation anxiety you should enlist the help of a trainer. There are many different variables with each case and can be several reasons that it is occurring. Just because your dog destructively chews when alone or you have a puppy that whines when you leave, does not necessarily mean they have separation anxiety.
True separation anxiety in dogs is much more serious than them missing you. It usually means that there is an imbalance in the relationship between dog and owner. This imbalance is often accidently enabled and nurtured by the owner. There are cases of PTSD in dogs (rare), but dogs are not like humans when it comes to the past. They live in the now and take their cues on how to behave from us.
Yes your dog loves you and misses you when you’re gone, but not in a healthy way. Separation anxiety in dogs is more of a role reversal in their minds. To them, you are their human, their property and you are not equipped to handle the world without them. Separation anxiety in dogs can develop for different reasons and varies in degrees of severity, but all cases are unhealthy and stressful.
An analogy that was told to me years ago:
Imagine if you watched your two-year-old child walk out the door and left you home alone for 8 hours. Think about the mental anguish, anxiety and shear panic you would go thru waiting for them to return. You may even drive yourself so crazy that you start to destroy things in the house or yell and scream until they come back. When they do return, your anxiety turns to over excitement, even hysteric behavior. Now imagine going thru this on a daily basis. This gives you an idea of what a dog with separation anxiety goes through.
You should be able to leave your home without your pup having a meltdown. It’s ironic when owners seem disappointed that their dog isn’t upset to see them go, but this actually means the dog is mentally stable. The same applies for owners when they return home. There shouldn’t be a big production because you walked through the door.
Separation Anxiety in dogs can be fixed. If you are noticing signs with a puppy you should intervene immediately so that it does not escalate. Remember, dogs do not understand “comforting” so if you pet or talk softly/excitedly to your dog when they are in a fearful, anxious or over excited state, then you are actually telling them that they are giving you the correct response and next time to do it better.