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Don't Leave Me This Way - Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety in dogs is a very distressing problem for a lot of owners and can present itself in a myriad of ways such as destructive behaviour, constant howling, self-harming and soiling in the home. However, the distress this causes to the owners is nothing compared to the stress that the poor dogs are going through.

As dog owners we make assumptions based on our human logic as to why our dogs do what they do, and a lot of owners believe that Separation Anxiety is due to the dog loving us too much and wanting to be with us all the time. Therefore, when we go out, the dog misses us, as he does not know where we have gone and for how long, which puts them in a state of distress.

Think about your role as a parent or a carer - if your child goes on a play date, you want to know: where they are going, who is going to be there and what time they will be back, but despite knowing these answers, you will probably maintain a level of anxiety until your child is returned home safely. However, when we the parents/carers go out, we don’t feel we have to go into the same amount of details to our children, because we are in charge and can take care of ourselves and our children accept that.

We tend to view dogs as domesticated animals that are dependent on us, totally omitting the fact that a dog is an apex predator with instinctual responsibilities to other pack members. In any collection of pack animals, you will see that the decision makers do not have to justify themselves when they leave the group, nor are the other group members concerned when they do so. They know that the decision maker is the smartest, most experienced and reliable member of the group that can take care of themselves. If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety it is because they believe they have responsibility for your safety. Whilst this may sound rather sweet, the anxiety that this causes the dog, is not sweet – think how you would feel if your child went missing for a few hours.

When your dog views you as a junior member or incapable of making decisions for the pack, they will assume responsibility and take on the role of alpha and this is where the behaviour problems start. Dogs with separation anxiety are missing you because they have lost sight and sound of their charges and have no idea where you have gone, if you are safe, or if you will ever return.

A method you can start practising now, to help alleviate Separation Anxiety when you return to work is ‘Gesture Leaving’. This is very simply and effective and involves you walking out the door, stopping for a second and then coming back in, without any fuss what-so-ever. What your dog will see, is you going and returning safe and sound without incident. It is important that you do not acknowledge your dog when you return, as you want to demonstrate that it’s none of its business where you have been. The more you practice Gesture Leaving, the better the results and it only takes a second. So, every time you nip the loo or put the kettle on, just go out the front door, close it, then come back in and continue to get on with your day. You can do this 100 times a day if you wish, the more times, the better the results. You can then build up the amount of time that you stay out, so for example walk out, count to 10 and come back in and repeat soon after. You must ensure that you come back in before the dog starts to get concerned, so there is absolutely no trauma involved in the process.

To convince your dog that you are the decision maker within your pack, you must demonstrate competence in four key areas (Status, Food, The Walk and Perceived Danger) as these are the rules that dogs live by!

Amichien Bonding is a complete program that helps you to understand and speak the language of your canine friend. This puts you in the role of alpha, which takes the responsibility away from your dog, making for a more relaxed and happy life for all concerned.

To find out more about the method we teach, please click on the Canine Behaviour link below.

Collette Jacobs


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We offer an holistic stress free approach to eradicating unwanted behaviour. 

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