Separation Anxiety—Are 2 dogs better than 1?
Separation anxiety is such a popular topic. Everyone seems to write about it in books, articles and blogs, but unfortunately very few people have good answers on how to solve this serious issue. Some of the most popular techniques are totally impractical and rarely seem to work. Who really has a flexible enough schedule to leave the house for short periods of time and build up to longer times over a couple of weeks? This technique does not allow you to leave the house until the exercises are finished (which could be weeks!!). The idea is to basically desensitize the dog to your absence. The other popular technique is to desensitize the dog to the triggers of you leaving. Pick up your car keys and don’t leave, then put them back down. Put on your jacket and hat and wear it around the house, then take it off and don’t leave. The problem with this is that your dog will soon learn other triggers for knowing when you are leaving. In my experience, this technique rarely, if ever, works. When treating a dog for separation anxiety, you need to understand where the anxiety is coming from and then fix the cause and not the symptoms. In my previous blog on Separation Anxiety dated February 19, 2013, I discuss techniques that I have found very successful over the years, so I will not get into them here.
I wanted to discuss another popular belief, that getting another dog to keep your current dog company will fix separation anxiety. Last week I saw a client who asked me if getting another dog would fix the separation issues she is presently having when she leaves for work. Getting another dog may help the separation anxiety issue, but it could also make the issue worse. Typically a dog that has separation anxiety believes he is in charge of the comings and goings of his underlings…meaning you! If your dog feels he is the leader of your pack (which is usually the case in separation anxiety cases) and then you buy another dog to keep your present one company, you are actually adding more members to the pack/ family, making it a bigger pack with even more responsibility. This will now make your dog even more anxious and stressed. The only other way of adding another dog that might work would be to bring in a confident adult. If the new dog is not a very a dominant dog and is a follower too, or you get a puppy, you have probably just made your problem even worse.
Some people wonder why the dog seems so much better at doggie daycare and does not have as much anxiety when playing with his other canine friends. The answer is that when you bring the dog to doggie daycare, he is not in his territory or home. So, using doggie daycare to help you manage the separation anxiety is sometimes an option. However, this said, I still see dogs that show separation anxiety at daycare when they are separated from their human pack members.
So my advice is to treat the existing issue of separation anxiety first, and then when this is taken care of, go out and get yourself a new dog. This way your new pack/canine family will feel more relaxed and happier when you are not home, knowing they have a leader who is in-charge of his own comings and goings.
(Original Article posted on CanineMaster.com blog)