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Separation Anxiety - where does it come from?

Dog Dancer
November 10th, 2010, 11:49 AM
So I was wondering how come so many dogs have SA these days? I certainly don't remember dogs like this when I was a kid. Our dog stayed home alone all the time. Was it like that years ago because Mom's stayed home more, and problem dogs were just sent to the pound? You mostly know that Shadow has extreme SA and comes to work with me daily now. We worked with a behaviourist years ago and were able at times to leave her home alone for several hours, but always she'd regress or snap and start destroying walls at some point in her efforts to get out of the house. She stayed home alone when she was young, then suddenly at a year and a half ripped the house walls down until she actually did get out of the house! She'll rip door frames off and slice her feet open on nails, leaving blood everywhere, it doesn't stop her. So why is this so prevalent now adays?? Are we just not available enough for our dogs in today's society? Do we spoil them too much and not treat them like "dogs"? Why some dogs and not others?? I'm so confused and when I get another pup I really don't want to have the same issues again! What's your opinion or insight on this?

luckypenny
November 10th, 2010, 12:24 PM
I can't tell if SA is more prevalent in dogs these days in comparison to the past. I have learned though that as many approaches as there are to treating it, there may be as many reasons that cause it. Lucky came to us with extreme SA and for the most part, I'd say he was about 90% better now after 4 years. I don't know what exactly helped him most or if it was the combination of treatment approaches we used to help him. Nukka has SA as well but not as severe as Lucky had had. She's fine for 3-4 hours max as long as at least one of the other dogs is left at home with her.

I came across this very enlightening article the other day, especially the following excerpt. I hope it provides some answers for you. Be sure to read the entire article at the link as it's full of extra information.

While early experience may influence the development of separation anxiety, it is
most likely that genetics plays a primary role.1,11,12 When separation distress persists beyond the puppy
stage it is maladaptive and may indicate a dysfunctional attachment or pathological state.1,13 In one study
dogs that were timid fearful and restless when removed from their social environment, could be better
trained to sit and were less socially solicitous when treated with morphine, while dogs treated with
naloxone were more socially solictous.14 In another study, prolactin levels were significantly higher in
dogs under chronic stress, but significantly lower with fear and mild phobias.15
Separation anxiety may also be a secondary or acquired condition or have a learned component. For
example, separation anxiety may arise when a dog is suddenly separated from its owners following a
period of prolonged, constant or exclusive contact or a sudden change in routine.12 In addition, separation
anxiety may develop in individuals that have other anxiety disorders, such as noise and storm phobias.3,16
These dogs may become so dependent on the owners to alleviate their anxiety that they can no longer
handle separation.
Although one study found no association between spoiling, obedience training and behavior
problems,17 recent studies have found less separation anxiety and less behavior problems in dogs that
have had obedience training.3.4,18 In fact, dogs that have obedience training, have been trained with
positive reinforcement, or have been to agility classes are less likely to have behavior problems, while
those trained with punishers had lower obedience scores and a higher level of training problems.19,20
A number of studies have indicated that shelter dogs are overrepresented,2,3,21 while other studies
have found no difference as to source.6,11,22,23,27 In one study 68% of the dogs had been obtained from
breeders or private homes.23 It has therefore been suggested that shelter dogs are overrepresented,
because they already had separation anxiety at the time of relinquishment.21,24,25 In fact, screening and
assessment of shelter dogs, and provision of appropriate advice to those who adopt these pets can
effectively reduce separation anxiety.21,23,24 On other hand it is interesting to note that dogs that
experience the loss of an attachment figure may develop more insecure attachments,1 and that dogs that
dogs that had been previously abandoned were more anxious and had less secure bonds with their
owners than puppies that had been with their owners since puppyhood.26

http://wvc.omnibooksonline.com/data/papers/2008_S13A_S13B.pdf

Dog Dancer
November 10th, 2010, 02:56 PM
Thanks for the link LP. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but will for sure. What you posted though was interesting. Shadow came from what called itself a rescue (but back then it may well have been a disguised puppy mill - I'll always wonder). She was in a barn stall all by herself at about 10 weeks when we got her. She went to all kinds of obedience classes and agility classes when she was younger, and again when her SA started up. Leaving her with Halo didn't help her anxiety either (that was why we got the second dog), you're lucky it helps Nukka to have another dog with her. Shadow was used to being home alone, we had tried crating her when she was young, but she always hated it and was never an issue without it so we didn't pursue that. I know better now. Our behaviourist told us she is claustrophobic though and that's why she wouldn't crate.

Anyhow, it's just very interesting and I was wondering peoples opinions on it. When I had her in doggy day care for several years it seemed a lot of the dogs there had SA, and it just seemed like more and more dogs (and people) have to deal with this now.

TeriM
November 11th, 2010, 12:11 AM
Interesting question and information :thumbs up.

I actually was curious to see if there would be any changes in Riley after losing Lucy but he seems to be fine. In fact often when I leave he doesn't even bother getting off our bed to see me out :laughing:. We have been lucky as our dogs rarely were alone for more than 3-4 hours.

oldbraincells
November 24th, 2010, 02:10 PM
I can only qoute on my experience and tactics that helped me with SA...initially based on jan fennell's methodology (amoung many others) .

Each and every behaviour, good, bad or otherwise is in turn related to the over all picture and you and your dog's relationship.

In simple terms (and it really is) Shadow, I expect is assuming a 'spoiled', leadership role.

She doesn't agree with you leaving..ok, that's apparent..to the point.
She should not be allowed the mindset to make that descision..only the leader should be concerned with the comings and goings of members..leader being any and all humans.

How do you change that..by instilling leadership to you and Shadow as your care and charge following your lead. This is fundamental to most behaviour problems.

Try this - it is simple in concept - hard to practice..on leaving AND returning..just ignore for several minutes.
Practice using short away durations first..15 minutes...30 minutes..
Just leave the house..walk out as if you own the place and you are an adult and can do what you want when you want..no drama..nothing..leave

Return the same way..no acknowledgement for say 3 minutes..(5 or so ideally)..REGARDLESS what Shadow has done..IGNORE..nothing phases you..you are supreme commander

After the cold shoulder, then call to you and give a welcome, calm greeting..not extiement

Repeat and continue forever..if you stick it out (oh it is so hard..I know) you will see results.

The concept is that you as leader can come and go as you see fit..you releniguish Shadow from the concept of HER charge leaving HER company and HER fretting about HER responsibility of you.

More often than not the roles are reversed with dog and owner..change the roles and magic happens..go figure

Oh yes, since childhood the rules have relaxed in almost everything. children as well, too much latitude I suspect..that's the difference..I had boundaries when I was young..I wasn't mistreated..dog/human relationships have also changed..some for good..some just silly

Choochi
November 24th, 2010, 02:38 PM
Well I do think genetics and weak nerves are a part of the problem, followed by early puppy experiences, followed by how the dog is raised/managed as it grows up.

I think there are so many more dogs being bred now as they have become a much larger part of the popular culture. Unfortunately a lot of these dogs are being bred just to make puppies, with little regard for temperament. I do think there has been an increase in nervy, unstable dogs as a result of such poor breeding practices.

I also see a lot of novice dog owners expecting they can love their dog into good behaviour and some how reason with them. It's becoming a culture. You could give a well bred balanced dog to some of these people and they will raise it into a mess. Now, give an already genetically weaker puppy to these people, and you get the sort of mess we see a lot of dogs have become.

As a side note however, I meet plenty of clients who tell me their dog has sever separation anxiety, etc and when the dogs stays with me, it is perfectly normal. I think to a degree, some of the dogs don't truly have separation anxiety but learn to act out because the behaviours elicit a response from their owners. So I do think some of it is also incorrect self-diagnosis.

14+kitties
November 24th, 2010, 04:03 PM
I can only qoute on my experience and tactics that helped me with SA...initially based on jan fennell's methodology (amoung many others) .

Each and every behaviour, good, bad or otherwise is in turn related to the over all picture and you and your dog's relationship.

In simple terms (and it really is) Shadow, I expect is assuming a 'spoiled', leadership role.

She doesn't agree with you leaving..ok, that's apparent..to the point.
She should not be allowed the mindset to make that descision..only the leader should be concerned with the comings and goings of members..leader being any and all humans.

How do you change that..by instilling leadership to you and Shadow as your care and charge following your lead. This is fundamental to most behaviour problems.

Try this - it is simple in concept - hard to practice..on leaving AND returning..just ignore for several minutes.
Practice using short away durations first..15 minutes...30 minutes..
Just leave the house..walk out as if you own the place and you are an adult and can do what you want when you want..no drama..nothing..leave

Return the same way..no acknowledgement for say 3 minutes..(5 or so ideally)..REGARDLESS what Shadow has done..IGNORE..nothing phases you..you are supreme commander

After the cold shoulder, then call to you and give a welcome, calm greeting..not extiement

Repeat and continue forever..if you stick it out (oh it is so hard..I know) you will see results.

The concept is that you as leader can come and go as you see fit..you releniguish Shadow from the concept of HER charge leaving HER company and HER fretting about HER responsibility of you.

More often than not the roles are reversed with dog and owner..change the roles and magic happens..go figure

Oh yes, since childhood the rules have relaxed in almost everything. children as well, too much latitude I suspect..that's the difference..I had boundaries when I was young..I wasn't mistreated..dog/human relationships have also changed..some for good..some just silly

OBC - We are talking about a beautiful 13 year old girl here. Not a pup or young dog. :thumbs up

Dog Dancer
November 24th, 2010, 05:18 PM
14+ Shadow appreciates your kind comments. Yes OBC, Shadow is an old girl, and we did all the exercises and such that you recommended many years ago. She'd have good spells where you could leave her for several hours, then she'd melt down again. She knows her spot in our pack, and always has. I have always suspected that someone tried to break into the house when we were out when she first "cracked" when she was just over one year old. We put her through all the obedience courses we could find (she went through those before the SA came out, and again after on the advice of the behaviourist), she was never allowed on the bed, she used to stay home alone all the time. Don't know what triggered it in her. She spent many years in doggy day care so that she wouldn't injure herself while I was at work, and now for the last six years she's just with me pretty much all the time. We don't make a fuss over coming or going ever, never have, still don't. I was just sort of curious as to why it is that there are so many dogs in geneal that seem to be diagnosed as having separation anxiety. I do agree with you that for many people the dog probably doesn't know it's place in the pack, and while my girls are certainly "spoiled" I don't believe that's Shadow's issue.

clm
November 30th, 2010, 05:43 PM
I wish I knew the answer to your problem. All of our dogs have been the same breed (keeshond). They've all come to us at 8 weeks of age except for our first dog who was 16 weeks when we got him. None of them ever showed any signs of SA until we got Baxter. Baxter is just horrible when we leave the house. Doesn't matter if one of us or both of us leave. Bentley couldn't care a less. Bentley is from the same breeder, same father, different mother. He's a few months younger than Baxter. We've done nothing different with these dogs as pups than our dogs of the past. Even going out to the back yard. If I want to put them out a few minutes before I go out with them, there's no way Baxter is going outside willingly without one of us and he will bark and whine and protest. I make sure I wait until he stops the behavior before I go out with him, we make no fuss when we leave or come home. It doesn't matter.
If any of our dogs should have had a reason to have SA it would have been our first dog. He was returned to his breeder after two months. Someone tried to break into our house when he was about a year old. They took the screen of the back window in the kitchen and then stopped I guess when they saw and heard him barking. He however never had an issue with us coming or going.
I'm not real hopeful of ever getting Baxter over this knowing your dog is at the age it is and still having trouble with it. I guess we're just going to have to deal with it as best we can.

clm

Dog Dancer
December 1st, 2010, 11:23 AM
Dachs, I suspect you're right about that too. I think probably dogs in the past had issues but people just didn't think twice about "sending them to the farm", at least that's what they'd tell the kids right. Maybe the dogs haven't changed, just the people have. Maybe now we're more in tune with our pets and work harder at keeping them and working with their needs.

CLM I gave up on fixing Shadow years ago. She'd have good spells and bad spells, but I never knew when the bad spells were going to happen so I could never relax with leaving her home. Didn't know what I'd come home to. So now she just gets to come everywhere with us (which means Halo comes along as well). We get dog sitters to stay at the house if we have to go out and it's too hot or we'll be out overly long. The neighbourhood kids love it, they get very very well paid to spend an evening at my house watching TV and eating crap food. I couldn't part with Shadow for anything though despite her issues.