The Relationship Between Human & Canine Coping Strategies

Posted on Posted in Training

Canine Coping Skills

How does coping skills and seperation anxiety relate to one another? Coping is defined as expending effort to minimize or tolerate stress. Coping responses are partly controlled by personality (habitual traits), but also partly by the social environment- that’s where you come in.

What causes separation anxiety? Most often a dog’s separation anxiety is triggered when a dog is left alone for the first time following constant human companionship. Separation Anxiety (SA) can also be caused by a dog that has suffered a traumatic event (from his viewpoint) or if there’s a change in the family’s routine or structure or the loss of a family member or other pet.

Does my dog have separation anxiety? If most, or all, of the following statements are true about your dog, he may have separation anxiety:

  • The behavior occurs primarily when he’s left alone and typically begins soon after you leave.
  • He follows you from room to room whenever you’re home.
  • He displays effusive, frantic greeting behaviors.
  • He reacts with excitement, depression, or anxiety to your preparations to leave the house.

What types of behaviors are common for dogs that experience separation anxiety? Digging and scratching at doors or windows, destructive chewing, howling, barking, and whining, urination and defecation (even with otherwise house trained dogs).

How to treat minor separation anxiety? Don’t make a big deal out of arrivals and departures. For example, when you arrive home, ignore your dog for the first few minutes until he calms down. Remember each time you physically praise your dog you are reinforcing whatever state of mind they are in at that moment. Leave your dog with an article of clothing that smells like you, such as an old T-shirt that you’ve slept in recently. Establish a safety cue—a word or action that you use every time you leave that tells your dog you’ll be back.

Are there products that can help? Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is a natural hormone produced by nursing canine mothers to promote a feeling of calm and security to puppies. There are a number of over the counter DAP products available, most notably the collar and plug-in. In conjunction with a DAP product, dog owners should also learn about the benefits a dog swaddle, such as the Thundershirt, which can produce calming effects. Bully sticks, Kong’s, and other treats or packable toys are also helpful to redirect your dogs anxiety.

Can I counter condition my dog to not have separation anxiety? Yes, in many cases your dog’s SA can be decreased or extinguished with the help of a desensitization-training program. Contact a reputable certified trainer in your area to learn more.

Is there anything else I should know? Sleeping near or with your dog reinforces your dogs pack drive and plays a significant role in the underlying psychology that can manifest as separation anxiety. It’s recommended that dog owners periodically have their dog sleep in separate quarters. This is especially important for dogs that may already display signs of separation anxiety behavior.

Are there medications that my dog can take? For severe cases of SA there are prescription drugs that your veterinarian can prescribe. A long-term treatment plan however should always include a behavior modification component. Drugs alone are not adequate to truly help your beloved furry child.