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Separation Anxiety explained.

Contrary to what many may believe, separation anxiety is not caused by the dog feeling really anxious because he/she thinks the human will never come back. It is a symptom caused by an unhealthy addiction to being together with the dog’s obsessive possession, namely, the human, which is often conditioned by how the human has lived with the dog.

Very often, if we really observe carefully, separation anxiety can be seen in both the human and the dog. The human feels anxious when he/she cannot be very close to the dog. This unstable energy will induce and validate the anxiety felt by the dog when the dog cannot be close to the human. They keep influencing each other negatively. It is like a vicious cycle that just keeps snowballing.

Anxiety rehab is a rehab for the human as much as it is for the dog. Separation anxiety is a personal growth journey for the dog owner when he/she has to learn how to put the dog’s growth above his/her own emotional needs.

We as dog owners are our dog’s influencers because we are the ones who spend the most time with our dogs. We can influence the dog positively or negatively whether we are doing it intentionally or not, and there is no mid ground.

Many owners are unintentionally influencing their dogs negatively — and these are usually people who really love their dogs.

For example, do you always pet your dogs whenever they put their heads on your legs, rest their butts on top of your feet, or insert their bodies in between you and your loved ones? Once you see your dog in the morning, are you always snuggling, hugging, kissing and petting your dog reflexively and even compulsively? Do you always allow your dog to invade your personal space and reward this behaviour with excessive affection?

Behaviours such as these can often turn the human into an object of obsessive possession in the eyes of the dog. A lot of dogs who live like that will Velcro to the human at all time like a shadow, they will guard their human from other human and dogs, and will have a meltdown once they are alone.

The human can become the dog’s emotional crutch and vice versa. It works both ways. They can influence each other negatively even through they deeply love one another. They will depend on each other's intimacy in order to feel good about themselves but this "good feeling" is not real confidence; it is a form of unhealthy obsession.

When both of them are addicted to each other in such a relationship, they cannot stop - and often don’t want to stop - so they will both drag each other downhill until the human gives up the dog, or they are both imprisoned in their own little world and cannot be separated.

Not everyone who treats their dogs this way will end up like this. There are many other factors and there are many kinds of dogs. But if you notice that your dog is displaying separation anxiety, may be also some protective/guarding behavior around you, and some reactive/aggressive towards other dogs or strangers, then please really look into this as you may have been influencing your dog negatively.

The good news is, there is hope. Once you have changed and become a positive influencer, things will improve and you dog can thrive under your guidance.

A positive influencer is one who will ask, “if l do this to my dog, is it going to help my dog to reach his/her full potential and be the best he/she can be?”

A positive influencer is someone who always has the best interest of the dog in mind.

They don’t just use the dog to satisfy their own emotional needs; they want to help their dogs to be the best they can be — even if it means they need to withhold those unearned affection, misplaced freedom, and excessive humanization. They are not trying to use their dogs as an emotional crutch; they are dedicated to support their dogs anyway they can.

When the human truly puts the best interest of the dog first, the relationship will become very constructive and productive.

In such a relationship, the dog will want to follow the human, and deeply trust and respect the human. A respectful dog will not look at the human as a possession. A dog who is not obsessed with owning the human will not become severely anxious once the human is out of sight.

When the human is influencing the dog positively, being together or alone, the dog will be fulfilled and thrive, and the human will have a wonderful time sharing life with such a reliable and confident dog. That is how we can create a strong dog who will not have a meltdown once the human is out of sight.

Hope this makes sense.

Thank you.

Reactive dog board and train dog training with Vancouver dog trainer behaviourist Richard Chan


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