How to stop separation anxiety damaging the bond with your dog

For many of us, separation anxiety tests the bond with our dogs.

We love them more than the world. We know that it’s not their fault they’re like this. But we’re worn down by never being able to do stuff, by coming home to destruction or by constant complaints from the neighbours. We get pushed to breaking point. And our relationship with our dog suffers.

Not like the movies

Dogs, just like us, aren't perfect. But we have a long history of idealizing our canine companions.

In 1923 a dog saved a Hollywood studio from bankruptcy. The dog was Rin Tin Tin. Rin Tin Tin’s third feature film wowed audiences around the world. The movie made Rinty, as he was known, a global box office hit. And it made Warner Bros a stack of cash.

And so began our love affair with on-screen canines. From Lassie to Benji, from Marley to Beethoven, we’ve loved a good dog movie ever since.

But these canine stars are far removed from the dog at the end of our leash. Like their human celebrity counterparts, these doggie screen sirens are not all they seem. They may not have an army of stylists and makeup artists. But great editing, multiple takes, a team of handlers and a troop of stand-ins ensure that the dog we see on screen is near perfect.

No wonder we look at our own dog and see flaws.

The dog next door

It’s not just fictional dogs who appear flawless. Closer to home, everyone else’s dog can seem so well-behaved that you feel like you’re the only one with the problem dog.

Don’t forget, though; you don’t always see the whole picture. You might see a dog who’s superb off-leash at the park, but who is awful on-leash. Or you might see a dog who politely greets people in the street, but who bowls people over when they come into the house.

Of, course, some dogs are easier than others. But the dog that doesn’t do anything its owners dislike is a rare beast. Dog ownership really isn’t like it is in the movies.

cockapoo puppy with separation anxiety

What we expect of dogs

The high expectations we have of dog ownership can lead us to feel disappointed with our dog.

Part of the problem is much of what we want dogs to do is to be “less dog”. Dogs like to chase, chew, jump to greet, play rough, snark off dogs they don’t want to be friends with.

They don’t like being patted on the head. They don’t always like being approached by strange people or strange dogs. And mostly they hate hugs.

We, on the other hand, expect them to tolerate approaches, pats, and hugs. We want our dogs to be calm, almost zombie-like. We stress out when they do high-energy dog stuff. Almost any expression of normal dog behaviour is something we try to change.

No wonder then that so many of us think that we have “bad dogs.”

Dogs with separation anxiety don’t stack up to the ideal either. They often frustrate the hell out of us. We can’t understand why they get so upset. After all, we’re only going to the shops/dinner/gym/work. We always come back. So why do they freak out so?

And when they do get upset, why do they need to bark incessantly, or pee in the house, chew our favourite shoes or try to eat their crate? It’s so maddening, isn’t it?

If you’ve ever had these thoughts, you are not alone. We all have! It’s normal.

How training helps strengthen the bond with your dog

Luckily separation anxiety training not only helps your dog over his debilitating condition, it can also bring you and your dog closer. Here’s why.

  • It’s training you do together. It’s time you set aside several times a week to work with him. No distractions, just you and him.
  • When you commit to not leaving him, you commit to keeping him below his threshold. If he’s not anxious, his repertoire of anxiety-related problem behaviour will stop. The single step of halting the problem behaviour will work wonders for your connection with your dog.
  • Separation anxiety dogs are often beautifully behaved in other respects, but when you’re knee deep in worry about his condition, it can be easy to forget this. Training helps you to see the best side to him in glorious technicolor.

Stick with the training. Get over this separation anxiety hump. And you’ll watch him flourish into an (even more) amazing dog.

It will be hard, but it will be worth it. And you may well have a happily ever after ending. Just like the movies.

If you want to find out how separation anxiety training works, book a free consultation with us.