Labeling A Dog As Having Separation Anxiety

By Joe Camacho of Dog Squad U, based in Tuscon, Arizona.
— Reprinted here with explicit permission from Joe. 

There is an old antage that goes: “The only thing two dog trainers can agree on is what the third is doing wrong.” That being said, I’d like to talk a little bit about MY philosophy on the issue of Separation Anxiety.  A dog will usually exhibit signs of Separation Anxiety in one of the following ways:

• Barking /Crying when you leave
• Destructive Chewing
• Hyper Activivity
• Escaping from your home when you leave

Usually most dog owners begin to rationalize why their dog has Separation Anxiety

• Rescue Dog and was Abused at his last home
• My dog loves me SO much that s/he cant stand to be away
• Environmental Changes
• Breed Specific Issue

Ok, now lets talk about Behavioral Issues: Many times I get called to a home because a dog is; jumping, chewing, scratching, taking food that doesn’t belong to them, getting on furniture etc. Now many of these same behaviors are signs of “Separation Anxiety”, the only difference is that the owners are not home when the behaviors are being acted out. At the end of the day, whether or not the owners are home, is it still not considered NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR?

As humans, we tend to give a lot of sympathy to conditions if the have a “Title”, let me give you an example. If someone has an unruly child in a waiting room and an onlooker says, “that kid is a brat”, we have a visual picture as to how the child is acting and probably stereotype his or her behavior and maybe even say it’s a sign of BAD PARENTING. Now if we later learn that the same child has “ADHD” we may tend to look at the child differently and with more concern, we will probably have empathy for the parents as well. The same goes with our dogs, Once we label a dog as a having “Separation Anxiety” we tend to feel that their behavior is due to their past (which we can’t change anyway and they do not remember), we don’t want to take the time to train the dog in order to fix it, because that would be cruel to put the dog through the “stress” of training. I mean, they’ve already had a rough life, correct? If we feel that way, are we as dog owners no different than the “Bad” parent of the BRATY child?

Basic dog obedience can help curb this problem. Once a dog has an understanding of what is right/wrong and has some self-confidence, I have seen many behavioral issues go away on there own. When you or I feel better and secure about our world, don’t we perform and act better? Don’t believe me, it wasn’t long ago that corporate America changed the title of “Secretaries” to “Executive Assistants” in an attempt to add self worth you employees and boost moral.

Before you go through the expense of having your dog put on medication to temporarly fix the issues, be a good “Parent” and take the time to have a qualified trainer work with you and your dog to not only fix the problem temporarily, but for a lifetime. That is what you committed to your dog when you decided to bring them into your world – a lifetime.

There are many qualified trainer in the Tucson area, if you do not seek help from — please find a trainer who you are comfortable with and lets keep dogs from over crowding shelters in town.

Reprinted with explicit permission from Joe Camacho of DogSquadU.