Are you Baking the Separation Anxiety Cake?
Updated: May 10, 2020
I have seen a great many memes going around on social media on how cats are working on developing opposable thumbs so they can contact your employer to get you back into work and out of their home while dogs are having the time of their life right now. What is not to love? Their favourite person is home all day! It is bliss. Until it isn't...
Let's face it, eventually this lockdown will be over and while the new normal may be different to the past, your dog will probably be alone more frequently again.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety in dogs is a state of distress of the dog when left alone. You could argue that every dog experiences some degree of separation anxiety and in a way that is not a bad thing. If my dog wouldn't rather be with me than without, I would seriously consider working on our relationship. What I am addressing in this post is a degree of separation anxiety that causes your dog distress at a level that results in behavioural problems such as destructive behaviours, soiling in the house and even self-mutilation. Imagine the stress the dog is under to chew its own tail or scratching the floors until their paws bleed. In milder cases, the dog may be howling and barking for prolonged periods of time, which may get you into trouble with the neighbours.
A Recipe for Separation Anxiety Cake ;-)
Many people I see on social media have been using this time of lockdown to develop their culinary skills. So let's take a look at separation anxiety as if we were baking a cake. These are the ingredients you will need:
2 cups of letting your dog think they are in full control. Letting your dog control every interaction by demanding play and initiating cuddles will teach them that they can have instant access to you whenever they please. Dusting over a little extra ear scratch every time they are in proximity further strengthens this belief in them - you are always there, at their disposal.
500 ml of your undivided attention. Touching your dog, speaking to them, even looking at them frequently will reaffirm that you are there purely for them and have nothing else going on in your life. Your dog's only job is to engage you often for their own entertainment. Stir this in and you may already get a nice helping of general anxiety before your cake is even done.
1 cup of potent glue. Let your dog follow you everywhere. Don't like an audience when going to the bathroom in the morning? Get over yourself. If we want a juicy separation anxiety cake, we don't want to be skimming on the glue. Your dog has access to you all the time and if they don't have to be without you while you are still in the same building, we can make absolutely sure that they won't be able to cope when you actually have to leave the house.
2 sachets of never leave your dog. Make sure that you are always around, adjust your entire life so the dog never has to be on their own.
1 tbsp of sleeping in the same room, so your dog never gets an opportunity to learn to be by themselves. Keeping your dog with you even at night time is an important ingredient to activate the co-dependence that will make your cake rise.
Mix al these ingredients together and bake for a couple of weeks and you will have yourself a solid separation anxiety cake. Now that you have made it, you will have to eat it, too.
I love my dog so very much and love having her around me all the time. Every minute not spent with her, I think about her. I get it. But as much as I like cake, separation anxiety cake is not my favourite. I wouldn't want to eat that and, more importantly, I wouldn't want to feed it to my dog. The thought of putting her through that level of stress makes my heart ache. So I make time at home when I have no interaction with her to give her the space to just settle, play by herself or take a nap. This way she learns how to entertain herself while I am still there and this will give her the confidence and skills to do this when I am not. I do not allow her to follow me around and make sure that, at least most of the time, I am the one initiating play and cuddles. As much as I love having her around me, I want her to cope with times when I can't be at home or take her with me. With a little bit of self-discipline now (a lot of self-discipline, actually, she is incredibly cute and she knows it, too!) I can ensure that me leaving her will cause her minimal stress later on, when I frequently have to leave the house to go about work again. And that, to me, is more important than her being able to follow me around all day.
If you are concerned about your dog developing separation anxiety, contact me now and we will work out a plan of action that works for you and your dog to prepare them for your return to work.