Saturday , 25 November 2017

Ask A Trainer: Separation Anxiety

Q:  My neighbor downstairs recently took in her father’s 11-year old dog, because her father had to move into an eldercare facility. The dog is a sweetie, but misses his old owner deeply.  Not only is he unable to see his favorite person anymore, but he’s living in a new house and is left alone for part of the day.   Since he’s used to having company 24/7, needless to say, he’s very lonely and anxious.   The poor guy barks throughout the entire day.   We live on a very quiet street, so there’s nothing really to bark at, he’s just barking, period.

Do you have any suggestions to help this poor pooch adjust to his new home and new schedule? I worry for him because my neighbor mentioned putting him to sleep if he couldn’t behave.  He doesn’t deserve that.   I can tolerate the barking, but other neighbors are complaining.  I will gladly pass on any advice you can offer.  Thanks!

A:  Thank you for writing in with such a great question, and for caring!  The world needs more people like you who care about other beings, even if they aren’t a part of their own family.  I really hope that nothing drastic has happened since you wrote in, and I can’t help but feel badly for the dog who has no idea why he isn’t with his favorite person anymore.

But thing is that we can’t feel too badly for the dog to be able to help him.  Even at the age of 11, he can learn to adapt to a new home, a new routine, and a new schedule.  He will go through a grieving process, but it shouldn’t last more than a couple of weeks.  This is natural, and it should be expected.  But he should be able to bounce back within a couple of weeks.

That being said, I believe that this case is more a grieving situation than a case of separation anxiety.  Cases of separation anxiety often include destructive behavior on the dog’s part.  This usually occurs within the first hour of the dog being left alone, of just before the owner gets home.It also often includes the dog becoming extremely excited when the owner does come home, and sometimes the dog may engage in submissive, or excited peeing as well.  Separation anxiety is also a behavior that doesn’t just appear out of the blue.  If the dog truly had it, then he would have shown symptoms before, while living with his previous owner.

What will help the dog to adapt to his new home will be a consistent schedule, with regular feeding times (of his regular type of food), regular walks, and regular play time, or people time.  Both his physical and mental entities will need to be stimulated and worked, so that he doesn’t have time to get bored.  Most dogs who receive ample exercise, including mental and physical stimulation spend a very good part of the day just sleeping.

What I do sense here though, is that the dog is engaging in problem barking.  It very well could be that he is barking so much due to his loneliness, boredom, and is doing so to soothe himself, as a way of dealing with his grief.  It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a blog post dealing with this very topic, problem barking.  I think that that blog post would help you and your neighbor, and their grieving dog.  Please let me know if it helps you!

Good luck and happy training!


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