Dog Training Blog: Prisoner in My Own Home. Living with Separation Anxiety By Shane Windatt
I am a prisoner in my own home.
I know I'm not alone, and I hope that others out there who are in the same situation feel a little more supported in knowing of my suffering. Thank goodness for the internet, where we can connect with each other.
I am being held hostage by a dog named Sabre. There are lesser players: Tom, Muppet, Su, Mocha, Frisky, Jack...but Sabre is the one I worry about. He is my worst nightmare: a large, strong dog with raging separation anxiety.
Sabre and Mocha arrived together yesterday, and their owners quickly hopped on a ferry and vanished into the mists. I have a cell phone number to call in case of emergency. I haven't called yet, but I've thought about it.
Sabre is an older male German Shepherd and Mocha is a female Doberman. I asked lots of questions about these dogs before I took them to care for, but most of my screening had to do with aggressiveness. I have found that asking dog owners about separation anxiety is usually pointless, as many are convinced that their dogs suffer hugely when in fact this turns out not to be true. Also, those truly terrible cases where the dog is hysterical with fear are sometimes not recognized. If the dog only becomes upset when the owner leaves, the owner may never see the behavior. And if they become aware of frantic barking or find damage to their houses when they return home, they may label their dogs as noisy or destructive rather than anxious.
While mild separation anxiety may be viewed as fretfulness when left alone, severe separation anxiety is akin to a full-blown panic attack. J's dog, Su, bonded to her strongly as soon as she came into our home and was unable to cope with even a couple of seconds of being apart from her. Being a tiny dog, there was no problem with destructiveness, but she would scream bloody murder! When she broke her leg and had to be kept immobile, it was impossible to crate her because she would claw frantically at the cage door. The only answer was for J to carry her everywhere, 24 hours a day, while the leg healed. Which, of course, Su loved, and so when she healed she experienced separation anxiety whenever not being held!
But back to today. It is time for walkies, but all the dogs cannot be walked at once. Jack and Sabre don't get along, and Sabre guards Mocha from the other dogs. So I have to leave Sabre behind for an hour or two. Where? So far he has broken the gate when left in the big field, and when left in the kennel, he tore out a wall. I am NOT leaving him in my house; who knows what he'd do to it?
Well...I don't know what the answer is other than staying close to him all day and neglecting the other dogs, but at least it won't be forever. Sabre and Mocha's parents will be back in a few days (knock on wood) and I'll be free again. As free as I ever get. All the dogs want my company all the time, but at least the others are resigned to sharing. Is this what it feels like to be the most popular girl in school? I had no idea. :-)
For more information on helping a dog with separation anxiety, click here.
Shane Windatt, CTC, CPDT
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