The New Addition
The day I picked up my little rescue dog Briar is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. Shaking and crying, plastered in his own feces on the way home, I vividly recall the way I intended to heal him of his trauma and worries with nothing other than food, affection, and love.
I had started fostering dogs as a teenager, eager to help save dogs in any way possible. My knowledge of dogs, their emotions, and their training was limited but I came from a place of burning desire to learn more. Upon picking up Briar, it quickly became apparent that I would need to learn a lot.
The tiny, timid, fluffy mutt entered my life right at the start of the COVID-19 quarantine in 2020. School was out, people were working from home. What better time to bring home a new canine family member? The sudden influx of inquiries for dogs at the rescue made it evident that I was far from the only one with this thought.
As people agonized in their sanitized homes over the lack of freedom and recreation, some came to realize that for our dogs, this was the best time ever. The humans were home, and they were home for good! No more boredom for 8 hours as the humans worked their day jobs. Later in the year however, concerns began to arise. How would all of these dogs react when their humans suddenly began leaving them once again? Particularly those who knew nothing but the comfort of their owner at their side since the first day they set paw in their owner’s home. Articles made the news, claiming that these dogs were at an increased risk of developing one of the most prevalent canine problem behaviors – separation anxiety.
Finding Separation Anxiety
One week. It took approximately one week before my small dog Briar began to display signs of distress at my absence. Shakey and timid as he was, upon sitting in my lap for the first time, it seemed a certain bond was solidified. Being new to the household, I contained him in a pen in one room to limit his access to the home during potty training. I left him unattended for short periods of time and began to notice his frail barks and frantic greetings if I left him for so much as ten minutes. He became increasingly clingy, and it wasn’t long before I found the culprit for his oddly distressing behavior.
Separation anxiety (SA) is one of the most prevalent canine behavior issues across the world. While the behaviors displayed vary from dog to dog, many of them display an inability to be left alone without experiencing panic that may cause them to pace, vocalize, and even become destructive. Upon concluding that their dog might suffer from this condition, the owners of these distressed dogs are often left confused. They don’t know why their dog is acting like this, how to feel, and most importantly, what to do.
Whether concern is brought on by the neighbor’s noise complaint, exhaustion over the third destroyed piece of furniture in a single month, genuine worry for the emotional state of the dog, or any combination of factors, many of these dog owners set out to “fix” their dog and rid of them of this so-called separation anxiety. More often than not, they would like it gone as soon as possible and for good reason. Desperate to gain relief from the feeling that their dog is trapping them inside their own home, they seek advice.
Advice – Trial and Error
Advice comes in many shapes and forms – almost always well-intentioned yet often not well-educated. Many of us owners of dogs with separation anxiety tried a great number of things prior to finding a qualified trainer such as a CSAT. And boy, are there a lot of things to try. Whether seen on the internet, heard from a family member, or even told by a trainer, the sheer number of suggestions that owners of dogs with SA are often given can be mind-boggling. Few things better fit the notion of ‘trial and error’ than the struggling attempts of an SA dog owner to remedy their canine pal of their seemingly irrational fear. Briar and I were far from being an exception, and thus trials, and many errors commenced....
...Stay tuned for Part Two of this series in which Team Briar goes over the many options they tried at the beginning of their journey!
TEAM BRIAR, current client