When I talk about problem solving so many times I end up using the word escalation. The reason I use it so much is that in dealing with problem solving issues I have seen very small behavior problems become full blown behavior problems when not addressed. You can see that in Housebreaking, Getting in the Trash, and just about any problem that an owner will need to deal with. SEPARATION ANXIETY is one of the biggest examples of that. SEPARATION ANXIETY is a problem that can really vary from dog to dog, and some dogs have a little anxiety naturally. Others let this anxiety manifest into something that can become a serious issue that can cause major stress on the dog. Most of the time SEPARATION ANXIETY originates from the animal not wanting to be left alone. As I had mentioned, what you will find with SEPARTATION ANXIETY is that there are different degrees or levels of a specific problem, and SEPARATION ANXIETY could be exhibited in a number of different behavior problems. If the owner has caught a behavior problem early enough, the animal will have never had a chance to let the minor behavior problem become a major one. But if it is something that has gone unnoticed for a period of time, it could take a lot more time to deal with. From what I have seen, it seems like some of the dogs that will show more cases of SEPARATION ANXIETY are some of the smaller dogs that can be a little more temperamental such as Shi-tzus, Maltese, and Chihuahuas, and many of the Toy Group. But I have also seen some large dogs have the problem as well. As the name suggests, most of the time this behavior problem stems from a dog not wanting to be left alone. From what I have seen, there seems to be something that goes on in the animal's head which really can elevate the level of anxiety within the animal. I think that if you understand how this escalates, it may help you understand the behavior itself, and most importantly, help you eliminate it. If you take a look at a dog with SEPARATION ANXIETY and were to watch him when the owner were to leave the house, the same pattern of events would happen. If a dog is allowed to run loose, one of the first things that happen is that they seem to want to pace right off the bat. As a matter of fact, many times they will run and move in a certain pattern, and that pattern quite often remains the same. It may be along the perimeter of a fence, it may be back and forth in front of a screen door, and it may be running back and forth throughout the house. And as the dog begins to pace, it can be done at a slower speed or faster speed. This pacing is the animal's own unique way of dealing with stress of being away from the owner. Here's where things start to change within the animal. As the animal becomes a little more stressed out, and things begin to escalate, this pacing now is coupled with the animal whining and even barking. This whining and barking really will vary within the breed and individual personality of the dog. In extreme cases, you will hear nonstop barking or whining all day long. As the animal becomes a little more stressed out and things start to increase even more, he may begin to start digging at the door, gate, or the last place he/she saw you. It really doesn't matter if it's inside or outside either. If he is in the house, it may very well be the front door that the dog will scratch at. He may also choose the carpet, chairs and couches to dig at. If the dog is in the backyard and the last place the dog saw you was walk through the sliding screen door, he may very well dig at the screen door. In the backyard you may also begin to see the dog start to dig holes and dig up plants. As things continue to elevate even more, and the dog begins to not only dig at things, but the digging begins coupled with chewing and tearing. Once the dogs starts tearing at things such as screen doors, and those things are torn, quite often the dog will start chewing on them. If your dog is in the house, the chairs or couch he has once dug at, now become things he chews on to deal with the stress. And probably the most severe type of SEPARATION ANXIETY is when the animal is so stressed out that he begins to lick, and even chew on himself. As you can see, there are certainly different levels of this problem. The solution to dealing with SEPARATION ANXIETY, as well as many of the behavior problems, is to eliminate the opportunity for SEPARATION ANXIETY to escalate. The method that I have seen that has been very successful involves CRATE TRAINING. Our goal is not put the animal in a situation where he can have a chance to get stressed out. At the same time, we are going to try to find things that he likes that he can have when we want him to be alone. Many times, a dog likes the security of a CRATE because they are naturally "den animals". This means they like enclosed areas naturally.
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