On Doggie Separation Anxiety and Socialization in General

Okay, right now I am still in the very initial stages of establishing my new business, getting all the licenses and insurance and preparing for some marketing.  Maybe eventually I will get a separate site up and running just for that, but for now, I think that might be taking too much on, so every once in a while, I may post some dog stuff here.  Here goes.

Lots of dogs follow their humans around the house.  They like to be close, sometimes inconveniently so.  On your heels.  Sitting on your foot.  Or in your lap.  Most humans, for their part, don’t mind and actually enjoy the close bond they have with their dog, even if he is the canine version of a helicopter parent.  So how do you know if your dog is simply a doting canine companion who worships the ground you walk on (especially if you have treats,) or is suffering from bonafide separation anxiety.  What’s the difference?

  Dogs with separation anxiety tend to bark, howl, whine, or even yelp while the owner is not home. They tend to be destructive, and will chew up just about anything, including door frames, clothing, couches, pillows, or even their own crate. When they chew their crate it is usually in attempt to escape, which dogs with separation anxiety are good at doing.  (source)

Sometimes, a dog who chews furniture or tears up the house when the owners leave him home alone may be simply bored or possessed of excess energy (due usually to the owner underestimating the amount of physical or mental stimulation their dog requires.)  Or he may be suffering from the more insidious separation anxiety.  Now that I know a little more than I used to (I still have a lot to learn, but who doesn’t?) I think people take it for granted when they have had an “easy” dog.  They have maybe had a dog that had no behavioral trait that they considered problematic.  Then they are surprised/dismayed when they get a dog that has behavioral issues they don’t like or have never encountered with their previous dogs. Some people, even people who have had dogs before, don’t always realize that a lot of the things we expect of dogs (like long periods of isolation/separation from their “pack”, which would be their human family in this case) are not a natural part of doggie genetic make-up, and sometimes need to be taught or socialized into the dog.  If you think your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, you may want to contact a vet or trainer for help dealing with the issue.

To sum up, the best thing a dog lover (owner) can do for their dog is to get them used to all types of people, places, things, and circumstances as early as possible.  This is your best defense against not only common behavioral complaints, but also against more serious issues like separation anxiety and even unexpected dog bites!

Also keep in  mind, dogs typically don’t generalize well.  Often, when someone claims their dog doesn’t like a certain “type” of person (a person of a particular sex, race, age, etc.) it is simply because the dog was simply not exposed to this type of person enough, especially during the most formative socialization period.  Take your puppy or dog with you whenever you can, and try to make the experiences he has with new people, places, and things good experiences so he can build good associations.  This is a very basic tenet of Learning Theory (Behaviorism) and how dogs learn.

Puppies are not only widely believed to be in a sensitive period, biologically, but are encountering many very important things – people of all types, dogs apart from their littermates, sights, sounds etc. – for the first time, which, from a Pavlovian conditioning perspective, is noteworthy, as significant experiences of both negative and positive variety are sometimes indelible. So it behooves us to “pad” puppies with good experiences regarding things we want them to like, because inevitably life will throw them bad experiences. (Jean Donaldson, source)

So just bear these things in mind the next time you see your dog do something you may not like.  He was not born with a built-in set of rules for living with humans.  He may need to be taught what you expect of him, (and to do that it helps to have a basic understanding of how dogs learn.)  And it bears repeating: socialize, socialize, socialize!

Advertisements

Update (aka: What Sh*t is Going Down this Friday) (*updated)

The academic portion of my studies in dog training with the Animal Behavior College has nine stages.  Some of them are longer than others, and after each stage, I take an open book test.  I can study online any time, but I requested hard copies of the material.  It’s no extra charge and not only is it easier for me to study that way, with less note-taking, but I’ll also have the materials at hand for any future reference.  But my books haven’t come yet, and I didn’t want to waste time, as my first Stage Exam was due only a week after the projected date of the books’ arrival (April 19th,) so I started studying online.

This was about a week and a half ago.

Today, I got the grade for my Stage 3 exam!  Yes, I have completed three stages (or chapters, as I like to think of them,) and taken three exams.  I’ve gotten 94%, 97%, and 95% respectively.  The second stage exam was on learning theory.  Permit me to brag a moment… Wait! I don’t need your permission; this is my blog!  Anyway, my academic “handler” told me that he was pleasantly surprised by my score, as many students have trouble with that chapter.  I told him I’m sure my background in psychology helped, as this was kind of like a refresher.

Pavlov's Dog (photo: howstuffworks.com)

Pavlov’s Dog
(photo: howstuffworks.com)

Anyway, I’m really pleased with my progress, and have been checking the mail everyday on the off-chance my books come early (I received an email that they had been shipped, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.)  I’d like to have them before starting Stage 4; I don’t want to take notes by hand anymore.  All I need is my trusty highlighter!

On another note, today is pizza day!  On Fridays, hubby and I often have a friend over and order either pizza or Japanese from Yamato.  I just found out Little Caesar’s still has/just got back their square, deep dish pizza.  And considering that I’ve sort of fallen off the strict calorie watching wagon (well, I was only ever hitching a ride on that bad boy to begin with,) I decided I needed to really torch some calories today.   Four pieces of that pizza will cost me about 1350 calories…  And let’s be real; I can easily eat four pieces.   Also, it’s ridiculous how excited I get over the prospect of yummy food.

New Image, courtesy of the AlienRedQueen

New Image, courtesy of the AlienRedQueen

See, you replace the dog food with…well, food food.  And that little dog there represents me– you can tell because of the eyeliner I added and the bad-ass doggie tattoo (there wasn’t enough room to put “Mom” on it.)

Now I’m just killing time, trying to kill calories, and keeping my kid happy until pizza time.

So, anyway, that’s my Friday in a nutshell.  How’s yours?

Update on the Update:  MY BOOKS ARE HERE!  Thank you, UPS man!

My goody box! Two head collars and a halter, as well as treat samples and a free Kong!  See my sexy polo shirt?

My goody box! Two head collars and a halter, as well as treat samples and a free Kong! See my sexy polo shirt?