Will Your Dog Worry When You Leave It Alone?
You wouldn’t want a dog suffering from agoraphobia working on your farm. Equally, you wouldn’t be particularly pleased to have a great dog suffering from separation anxiety when you’re taking them on a shoot. What can you do when your dog spends so much time at your side that they’re worried that you might go off to complete your game keeping work and leave them back at home?
What is separation anxiety for dogs?
While this isn’t a particularly common problem, some dogs can develop an anxiety when they are left alone for long periods. They can become extremely stressed which is why the dog might tear apart and chew the whole area where they are resting. It will be clear that this isn’t just a random or inappropriate chewing of their bedding or the door.
Experts will tell farmers that their dog isn’t reacting because they are angry because they’ve been left alone; they have a fear of being left alone, known as a phobia and their chewing or destruction is purely a panic response.
What can you do about it?
Before you consider a plan to change the behaviour of your pet, you will need your vet to diagnose the separation anxiety, because otherwise you may be treating the wrong illness or the wrong phobia.
There are a number of symptoms and behaviours that you may notice that your dog is showing. For example, if your dog is following you all around the farm, leaving no more than a couple of feet distance between you, you may learn that they are uncomfortable when you are out of their sight.
When you are going to other areas of the farm or on a shoot and you’re not taking your dog with you, you may see them showing signs of stress by hyper-salivation or panting too much. Alternatively, when you return from work, the dog might be extremely frantic and take much longer than usual to return to its normal peaceful and composed behaviour.
Some dogs will take to soiling inside your property which is a dramatic change in their behaviour, particularly when they were previously house-trained.
When the dog is trying to escape from an area to go and find you, they may tear or chew anything in their way and this might include carpets if they are indoors.
One sign that separation anxiety may be causing stress for your dog is when any of the destructive behaviour occurs only when the dog is left alone.
Reducing the stress levels
Experts will suggest a range of exercises and training for you to complete with your dog. They will be designed to reduce the dog’s stress level and build up their confidence for periods when they are left alone.
The basic command of sit, down and stay, can be effectively used to gradually increase the distance between your dog and the trainer. When this works effectively you will be able to move on to leaving the room for very short periods of time before you move on to the next stage.
As a dog owner, you will be taught to take the emotion out of saying hello and goodbye to your animal. You will also be shown how to ignore your dog for several minutes even while you are around so that the dog can learn to be alone even when you are there.
The sooner you can recognise that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then the sooner you will be able to solve the problem and have them back working properly on your farm or take them on a shoot knowing that you can trust them 100%.
Sharon writes for Solway Feeders, suppliers of chicken feeders.