Root causes are something I have to examine on a daily basis when I’m performing my regular day job – I’m a safety supervisor in an industrial atmosphere, and when injuries occur or when we have a near-miss, I have to dissect events and get to the heart of the matter.
Getting to the root cause of your puppy’s separation anxiety will involve the same sort of investigation techniques:
- You’ll need to know your schedule, inside and out
- You’ll need to figure out whose absence your dog is reacting most strongly to
- You’ll need to find out how long it takes for anxiety to set in, and how long it takes after that for behavioral symptoms to manifest
- You’ll need to know what sort of routines your family members perform when they come back from school, or work, or other activities
- You’ll need to isolate sounds, and visual cues, and behavioral cues that your family members give off before they leave the house
And that’s just the beginning… you’ll find as you go along in the investigation process that there’s more detail to your daily routines than you ever noticed.
You also need to figure out a way to isolate your pup from dangerous activities when you’re gone. Because you can’t stop leaving for work. You can’t stop your son or daughter from going to school. And life must go on, right? This is part of what makes separation anxiety so difficult for people to deal with – because the source of anxiety will never go away. You will continue to leave the house for your daily adventures, and you will have to leave your pup at home for periods of time during the day. That’s life.
A note on containing dogs with destructive/ hazardous behaviors:
One client that I worked with noted that her dog was chewing the inside of the crate – literally chewing the hard plastic by hooking one canine through the plastic hole, and ripping inwards with all their might. I cannot underscore enough the industriousness this lovely greyhound put into chewing their crate. It was a sight to behold.
And it was a life-threatening behavior. The client was brilliant, and hit on putting her into the bathroom. And this is a solution that might work for you, dear reader: Most households are filled with soft, fabric things.. but there is one room where there isn’t soft fabric stuff everywhere, and what fabric there is can be easily removed…. and that’s without a doubt the bathroom.
I know – I know. It sounds ridiculous, but if your dog is putting their health at risk by chewing on or swallowing bad things, a bathroom may be your best bet.
- You can flip the shower curtains up over the shower rod a few times to put them out of reach.
- Blinds and window curtains can be raised out of reach.
- Any rugs or toilet paper/ tissues/ paper towels can be put up out of reach.
- Cleaners, sponges, soaps, etc. can be put up out of reach.
- For many households, it’s possibly the easiest room to chew-proof.
So – isolate your puppy carefully in the event that their anxiety leads to dangerous and destructive behaviors – if only for their health – and remember it’s temporary. This will give you some small peace of mind while you take the necessary time to find the root causes of the anxiety – a time to get to the heart of the matter.
Get out your pen. Start writing down your schedule, and think back carefully to when the behavior began.
« Thoughts on Separation Anxiety Getting to the heart of the Matter Part 2: Observation »
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