August 20th, 2004, 10:08 PM
Here is an artical I copied and pasted from another place. I hope this helps. :)
THE DOG THAT CANNOT BE LEFT ALONE
Myth: Dogs that behave in undesirable or destructive ways when left alone are being spiteful.
Charlie was a delightful dog in almost every way.
He played gently with the children, barked but never growled at strangers, could shake hands and catch a ball, and graduated at the top of his obedience class. He was considered a member of the family and even slept at the foot of his owners' bed. But the family didn't think they could keep him and doubted that they could find another home for him. Whenever Charlie was left alone he chewed up the woodwork, howled, and sometimes even urinated and defecated. He never behaved this way when someone was home for him, but the family couldn't ensure that he always had company and they didn't think that they could cope with these disturbing behaviors any longer.
Attachment and Separation Anxiety
Contrary to what his owners thought, Charlie was not being spiteful. He was exhibiting separation anxiety-that is, distress at being left alone.
Dogs are highly social animals. In the wild they live in family groups, as do wolves. When dogs live with people, they become attached to their human families. This attachment is essential to social life; it maintains peer bonds as well as parent/infant bonds. It is not surprising, then, that dogs like small children left by parents, commonly exhibit separation anxiety responses when their owners leave.
Animal behavior studies show that an individual generally responds to separation with increased activity and vocalization. These behaviors usually result in a quick reunion. If they fail to do so, the animal may withdraw, becoming lethargic and depressed.
In dogs, the characteristic increased activity may take the form of digging, chewing, and scratching at points of exit (doors or windows), which are attempts to escape and reunite with the owner. Similarly, by howling and crying the dog might get the owner to return. Urination and defecation (even in housebroken dogs or toilet trained children) are common consequences of being anxious.
Separation anxiety is certainly not the only reason a dog might urinate, defecate, vocalize, or be destructive in the home. These behaviors could also reflect medical disorders, lack of sufficient exercise or opportunity to be outdoors, "teething", lack of housebreaking, or a response to such exciting stimuli as neighborhood dogs or pedestrians. Your veterinarian should be able to help you determine why your dog is engaging in a specific problem behavior. This process of making a differential diagnosis is essential before appropriate treatment for a problem can be initiated.
Characteristics of Separation Anxiety
Dogs with sepatation anxiety engage in problem behaviors whin they are separated from their owners-whether the owner is actually out of the home or simply sepatated from the dog by a door or cage. Typically dogs show a dramatic anxiety response within a short time after their owners leave. They may also whine, look anxious: or sad, or follow their owners as the owners prepare to leave. In addition, they often display greeting behaviors that are more intense or prolonged than those exhibited by most dogs. When their owners are home, such dogs may follow them from room to room, sit leaning against their owners, insist on sleeping on the owners beds, and often dislike spending time outdoors by themselves.
Separation anxiety occurs in males as well as females, purebreds as will as mixed breeds, and at any age. It frequently occurs:
In dogs that have never or rarely been left alone.
Following a long interval, such as vacation, during which the owner and the dog are constantly together.
After a traumatic separation such as the dog having become lost or perhaps spending time at a shelter or boarding kennel.
Separation anxiety behaviors have nothing to do with obedience or the dog's dominance/subordinance relationship to the owner.
Treating Separation Anxiety
The basic goal of treating any anxiety behavior is to ensure that the animal experiences the problem situation without becoming anxious through a gradual approach. The difficult part is to do it correctly.
The treatment plan for separation anxiety involves gradually getting the dog accustomed to being alone. The experiences planned departures and short separations from its owner without becoming distressed. Gradually the separations are made systematically longer. The sequence of procedures we generally suggest is as follows:
Practice sit/stay exercises in a pleasant manner. Do not use leash corrections, yell, hit or otherwise punish the dog. The goal is to accustom your dog not to follow whenever you move away. Gradually you increase your distance from the dog. Within a few days, depending on you and your dog's ability, you should be able to move briefly out of the dog's sight. As you achieve progress, you can do this during the course of the day, unrelated to practice sessions. For example, if you are going to the refrigerator for a snack, you can get up, tell the dog to stay, and leave the room. When you come back, you might give the dog a tidbit or praise it. This procedure is called counter conditioning: You are conditioning (teaching the dog a behavior (e.g., sit/stay) that is counter to another behavior (e.g. following).
Once your dog demonstrates (after a few days or so of practice sessions) that it can tolerate your leaving the room without following, you then begin going to and from the front door during the sessions. Then, a few times, step outside without closing the door and immediately return. Next, step outside for a few more seconds and then return. Later in this practice session, or perhaps after several practice sessions, step outside, close the door, and then immediately return. You then slowly get the dog accustomed to sitting alone with the door closed between you for several seconds. This part of the treatment program may take only a few sessions for some dogs but many sessions for others. When the dog demonstrates that it can tolerate your absence from your home for a few seconds without engaging in a distress response (whining, crying, etc.) or effusively greeting your return, you can begin the next step of the program.
This step involves saying what you usually say when you leave (for example, "I'll be right back. Be good."), leaving your home, and then returning within a minute. Do not make a fuss over the dog upon returning. Either ignore the dog or greet it mildly with soft words or a gentle pat. If the dog is relaxed, repeat another departure and one minute absence. If the dog appears at all anxious, wait until it relaxes. After the dog has tolerated several one-minute absences, leave it alone for two or three minutes. Gradually increase the lengths of the absences. Do many departure/absences that last under ten minutes. You can do many departures within one daily session of an hour or so, assuming the dog relaxes sufficiently between the departures. Or you can scatter them throughout the day. For instance, practice several just before going to work, several after returning, and many on the weekends. Don't worry about the dog's attention span. If the dog loses interest and doesn't pay attention to your departures, so much the better! We have found that once a dog can tolerate absences of about an hour (30 to 90 minutes), it readily learns to tolerate spending longer intervals alone - 2 to 3 hours, then 4 to 6. You don't have to accustom a dog, minute by minute, to being alone all day (8 to 10 hours). The tedious part is at the beginning, but the job becomes easier as you go along. It is impossible to predict how quickly individual dogs and owners will progress because such factors as the severity of the problem and the length of time it takes the dog to relax between departures.
Examples of Absence Durations (in minutes)
Dog #1 1, 1, 3, 5, 2, 5, 10, 5, 15, 5, 10, 15, 20
Dog #2 1, 1, 1, 1, 11/2, 1, 11/2, 1, 11/2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 11/2, 1, 21/2, 2, …
Dog #3 1, 1, 2, 1, 4, 2, 5, 3, 10 (dog barked), 1, 1, 2, 4, 3, 5, 6, 7, 3, 7, 4, 6, 8, 2, 9, 7, 10, (no bark or anxiety), 5, 12, 8, 15, 10…
Rules To Follow Regarding Practice Departures
Start with absence durations that the dog can tolerate, for example 10 seconds.
Repeat each absence duration enough times to ensure that the dog is not anxious.
Slowly increase the length of your absence. If the dog becomes even a little anxious, Practice more, shorter absences.
Increase your absence duration randomly so the dog cannot learn to anticipate when you will return.
Remember, your goal is gradually to accustom the dog to being alone without becoming anxious. The dog should come to expect that most absences are going to be very short. The accompanying chart lists schedules of absence durations used in some real cases. Notice how each is different.
Some dogs have such severe problems that they become extremely distressed even before their owners leave. In these cases, the dog must be counter conditioned to the pre-departure routine of the owner. This process involves teaching the dog to sit and stay for praise and//or treats while you do one or more things related to your departures -but then do not leave. For example, the dog is told to sit/stay as you pick up and put down the car keys, go to and from the front door, rattle the knob, put on a coat, and so forth. The dog gradually learns that when you behave in these ways it will get a reward if it stays seated (or at least doesn't follow) and remains calm.
An alternative to the above procedure is simply to repeat pre-departure routines continually until the dog ignores them. No reward is required. The reason the dog reacts to these stimuli is that it associates them with being left alone for (from the dog's point of view) a long time. Repeating some or all of these routines many times without actually leaving will disassociate them from the unpleasant experience of being alone and anxious, and eventually the dog will reduce its response to them.
You can practice many of these procedures during television commercials; allow enough time in between for the dog to relax again. This takes very little effort or time on your part.
Dogs readily learn to associate specific events or items with short, non-anxiety- provoking absences by their owners. For example, many dogs are unaffected by being left alone in the car because the car is a signal that their owners will be gone for only a short time. Similarly, when an owner takes a garbage bag out the door, the dog knows the owner will return soon and therefore doesn't become anxious. Thus, it is sometimes helpful to associate a clear, distinct signal with a practice departure and short absence. The dog can use this cue as a safety signal.
Items that can serve as obvious safety signals are a playing radio, Television or stereo: a loudly ticking clock: a palatable bone (not one that can be splintered): or and interesting toy. If the dog's separation distress is manifested by chewing, providing a chewing item in addition to other signals is a good idea. If safety signals are used during practice sessions, it is important that they never be presented to the dog when you leave for a period of time longer than the dog can tolerate. If you should do so, the value of the safety signal would be lost. The common suggestion of leaving the radio on to "provide the dog company" is not particularly successful, by itself, in solving a separation anxiety problem. A playing radio is likely to work only if the dog has consistently associated it with being alone in a non-anxious state.
The ideal in treating separation anxiety is never to let the dog engage in its inappropriate behavior during the course of treatment. Every time the dog is left alone for longer than it can safely tolerate, it will engage in an anxiety response. This is counterproductive because the dog again experiences anxiety with a departure while you are trying to teach the dog that departures are safe. If you must leave home for longer than you have successfully practiced, you might take the dog with you or leave it with a friend, dog sitter, or at a kennel. If these solutions are impossible or impractical the alternatives are to:
Proceed with the program despite the possibility of setbacks caused by the longer absences. Sometimes this course of action works, and other times it makes the whole treatment process ineffective.
Condition the dog to be relaxed and comfortable in a specific room or crate where it will remain while you are away. However, there are serious potential drawbacks and contradictions to these procedures. These will be discussed later in this pamphlet.
Administer anti-anxiety medication.
Anti-anxiety medication may be used temporarily to suppress the dog's anxiety response when it has to be left alone for long periods during the course of treatment. Anti-anxiety medications are also helpful in treating dogs that cannot tolerate even short practice absences. Occasionally, dogs with mild separation anxiety can be treated through the temporary use of a drug without any behavior modification techniques.
A good anti-anxiety drug should not sedate the dog but simply reduce its anxiety while you are gone. It should be stressed that such medication is a temporary measure. As progress is made, the drug dose is gradually lowered until the dog can remain alone in an unmedicated state. The choice of an appropriate medication must be carefully made with the help of your veterinarian. It is wise first to administer the drug when you will be home for several hours to watch for any side effects that might occur. Some drugs might make the dog excitable, in which case you would not want to leave the dog alone.
Most owners get angry or upset when they find that their dogs have been destructive or eliminated while they were gone. People seem naturally to think that the dog should be punished: they yell at of hit the dog, take it to the "spot" and scold it, or isolate it in the bathroom for a while. Most owners discover these tactics do not work. Neither does waiting outside the door until the dog barks and becomes destructive and then rushing in and scolding the dog or tossing a can filled with pennies. Punishment, in general, is not an effective way to treat separation anxiety. In fact, punishment delivered by the owner may actually increase the dog's separation anxiety either by paradoxically increasing its attachment or by making the dog anxious about the owner's return or departure.
Some people mistake the dog's natural submissive behavior in response to punishment as "guilt". Owners frequently tell us that the dog "looks guilty" only when it has done something wrong. Actually, the dog has made an association between the owner's return; the presence of urine, feces, or chewed items; and impending punishment. The dog has not made the connection between its own behavior (barking, chewing, etc.) in the morning and the punishment delivered by the owner in the afternoon.
Punishment might work for some behavior problems that are not related to separation anxiety. For example, scolding a dog may decrease it's barking at neighbors, and applying bitter-tasting substances to furniture may reduce "puppy teething" behaviors. To reduce problem behaviors resulting form separation anxiety, however, you have to reduce the dog's anxiety.
The Use of Crates: A Cautionary Note
A common recommendation for controlling disruptive behaviors in the absence of the owner, is putting the dog in a crate. Whereas crates can be effective in housebreaking puppies and preventing puppy chewing, their use in the treatment of separation anxiety problems is usually counterproductive. The animal will still be distressed at being alone and probably will engage in anxiety responses in the crate. It may urinate, defecate, howl or even attempt to escape from the crate and thus injure itself. A crate can be used in dogs with a separation anxiety problem only if the dog is first gradually accustomed to spending time in the crate and then gradually accustomed to being alone in the crate.
Even though dogs do sleep many hours per day and sometimes like to sleep in enclosed spaces, they usually change position frequently. Contrary to what many dog "behavior" books state, wolves and dogs are not den-dwelling creatures: they do not naturally spend day after day in small enclosures.
It is therefore debatable how comfortable the dog will be in a small crate for as long as 8 to 12 hours. Another disadvantage to using crates is that the animal's watchdog capabilities are obviously reduced.
Sometimes, in addition to the techniques discussed above, it is also helpful to instigate minor and temporary changes in daily interaction with an excessively attached dog to help "wean" the dog from the owner. When you are home, you might require the dog to stay in a room by itself for a few minutes before allowing it accompany you. The dog also might be discouraged from sleeping on your bed leaning against you, sitting in your lap and so forth. The idea is to get the dog to be less "dependent" on you.
Obedience training does not directly influence separation anxiety. Many dogs with this problem have been to obedience school and have done quite well. Sending the dog out of the home to a training facility for several weeks will not eliminate the problem and is likely to make it worse. Separation anxiety is not the result of disobedience or lack of training. It is an emotional response.