Are you an enabler?
by EJ Lee
As pack animals, it is normal for dogs to always be near the rest of the pack. It's part of their survival instinct, their way to be safe and protected in the natural world. But of course, our pet dogs don't live in the natural world. They live in the human world. In the human world, dogs must learn to be left behind or ignored while humans tend to their human lives.
Due to their nature, separation anxiety is common in dogs. However, the level of severity, intensity, and duration varies greatly. Unfortunately, dogs with more intense manifestations of separation anxiety have become more prevalent in our dog community. Dogs started to develop an unhealthy codependent relationship with their humans, almost like an addiction.
It all starts innocently, your dog wants to be touching you at all times, lay next to you or at your feet. You find this endearing and shower your dog with all the love and affection.
Your dog obviously loves you, and sharing all the affection with your dog is the best part of having a dog, right?
Then it becomes more demanding, your dog follows you around, ALL THE TIME. Your dog might begin whining, pawing/ nudging demanding of your attention, your interaction.
You likely still find all this neediness endearing and welcome it until it becomes too demanding and too annoying. And it feels overwhelming.
Eventually, some dog can become so unbalanced that without your presence, the world is coming to an end and some dogs develop such intense anxiety and develop such a frantic state of mind, that they will hurt themselves in the process of this panic attack.
Of course, not every dog with separation anxiety gets that intense, but the underlying codependent relationship they have with their human is the same unhealthy state of mind.
If your dog is displaying any separation anxiety symptoms, with best intentions, you have likely been fueling the unhealthy relationship. You unknowingly became the enabler of your dog's addiction to you.
Which means YOU can turn this around! You are the solution to your canine struggles.
Here are just a few tips that can help you get back to a healthier relationship.
First and foremost, you have to stop feeding the addiction, stop being an enabler. You have to play hard to get when your dog wants to be near you, to be pet by you; you have to shoo them away, EVERY TIME. By the way, this will be harder for you than your dog. Yes, you must resist those puppy dog eyes. It's essential that you ignore EVERY TIME, your dog approaches you. Of course, this is not forever; you just need to give contrast to begin a new relationship.
You can interact in more healthier ways, teach your dog new things, or go back to basics. The more structured activities the better, so all the affection isn't a freebie.
Safest place for your dog with separation anxiety is the crate and one of the best things to teach is the place command. The specific exercise of having to be stationary in a designated spot away from you is a big challenge for your dog.
The place command is an exercise where dogs can learn to self-soothe and practice impulse control, two of the most important life skills, any dog should have.
Remember as your dog progresses, up the challenge by moving further away, eventually to a different room, as well as extend the time you ask them to stay in place.
Over time, having them regularly practice being away from you in a calm, relax state of mind will help you and your dog establish a healthier balanced relationship to replace an unhealthy codependent relationship. This will help your dog develop a more healthy balanced state of mind, and they will begin to make better life choices, so that you get to enjoy a balanced dog that's always a joy to have around.