This problem nearly always arises when a puppy is spoiled or not conditioned to accept an appropriate routine. As a youngster, it may have been allowed to sleep in its owner’s bedroom and received constant attention, or its cute and cuddly appearance may have attracted excessive fussing from visitors and family alike.
The unwitting result can be a dog that thinks it has a right to demand attention whenever it wishes, and that this is normal behavior. If you respond to a dog every time it blinks its doleful eyes at you, you could have a separation anxiety problem in the making. The bottom line is that we actually cause the problem ourselves by misguided acts of kindness when the dog is demanding.
Dogs that literally go everywhere with their owner, day and night, can also turn out to be owner-dependent. Understandably, therefore, separation anxiety is more common in single person households, especially when elderly people live alone with a dog as their sole companion. If only you and the dog occupy a house, then naturally you will be together most of the time. But there are measures you can take to teach your dog to be self-sufficient, without forfeiting a close and rewarding relationship.
Another possible contributing factor, though it is often overlooked, is the breed of dog involved. Dogs that are nervous or great natural attention-seekers may receive or solicit extra care and attention from sensitive owners in their early years, causing an excessively close bond and over-dependency to develop. Toy breeds and endearing varieties with human-like facial features can also trap people into responding to them more like little humans than actual dogs.
A sudden reduction in the amount of time and attention you give your dog may well upset him. For example, a dog that has been tenderly nursed through an illness may become distressed when it recovers and the extra fuss suddenly stops. Of course, dog’s personalities vary, so another dog may take this situation in stride, with little or no change in its behavior.
Again, a sudden change in the owner’s lifestyle – for example, if an owner who has previously been at home all day takes up a job outside the home -will affect the dog. A highly dependent dog will find it most difficult to be alone without the normal company of a family member.
Are You the Problem?
We are usually not aware of this, but in some cases this interdependence can develop to an unhealthy level. If circumstances change suddenly – for example, if we acquire a new partner or a different job -and the dog is no longer needed as much, it may react badly and develop separation anxiety.
Dogs that have inherited an insecure nature often want attention and company on demand, which compounds the separation anxiety problem. When you comply with your dog’s demands, it comes to expect attention every time it asks, until the habit becomes firmly embedded. When there isn’t enough attention, when you are not around, separation anxiety may occur. Barking and destructive behavior are usually the most common signs of separation anxiety, probably because these betaviors produce some emotional relief.