Separation Anxiety and Your Schnauzer

Dogs, even small breeds like Schauzers, are pack animals and will sometimes struggle with being left alone. Schnauzers can react to a lack of exercise and/or the stress of being separated from their “pack member(s)” by becoming upset, destructive, barking continuously, or eliminating in the house. While symptoms may vary, many undesirable traits can be traced back to anxiety. You may be mistaking the behaviors as a “Schnauzer trait” when in reality it is mental anguish. Personality changes are also a hallmark of anxiety as well. Mood swings, bouts with aggressiveness and even chewing on body parts can all be staples of an anxiety stricken Schnauzer. In order to stop our dogs from having separation anxiety, we first need to understand what is causing it.

1. The number one cause of separation anxiety is a human’s lack of leadership. We humans, more often than not, tend to treat our canine family members like humans. In a pack, the leader is allowed to leave. However, the followers never leave the leader. If your dog is instinctually seeing you as his follower and you leave him, it causes so much mental anguish that a dog often takes it out on your house or himself. The dog sees himself as the one who is responsible for the pack and when the pack has left the house he gets in a panic because he is afraid that something might happen to his pack members, for whom he is responsible. When a dog accepts you as pack leader separation anxiety will not exist.

2. Separation anxiety can also be due to a lack of exercise. A build-up of energy stored within the dog can bring about multiple behavioral issues. When you leave, it intensifies the stress levels and your Schnauzer may act out because it does not know what else to do with this built-up energy. One of the best ways to release anxiety and stress through exercise is by taking a daily walk. Walk your dog in the morning and again at night. For the walk to be successful, you need to establish yourself as the pack leader. Therefore, the dog should not be pulling in front of you. The dog should be walking beside you allowing its owner to guide the walk. If you allow the dog to pull in front, you are once again re-enforcing to your dog is the alpha. Instinctually, the pack leader goes first. If you do not make your dog heel beside you, the walk will not accomplish its intended goal. When a dog walks with its mind focused on its owner, both physical and mental energy will be released and the canine instinct is reestablished.

Pair of Miniature Schnauzers in their bed

Some things that can help

1.Is your dog getting enough exercise? Are you spending enough time with him? Have there been major changes lately? These and other questions should be asked and addressed. Sometimes it is just a small thing that makes the difference with controlling this problem. Do you provide pack walks? Be sure you take your dog for a long pack walk before you leave for any extended period of time in order to drain his mental and physical energy.

2. Are you your dog’s pack leader? Or is your dog your pack leader? Read the articles on this page Understanding Dog Behavior.

3. When leaving the house, don’t make a big thing out of it. When you come back, do some other things first, like taking off your coat and putting the groceries away, before you greet the dog. You want to avoid the dog getting the impression that leaving is a big deal. Saying goodbye to a dog is something that helps the human deal with the separation, but in reality the ritual of saying goodbye means nothing to the dog. It’s all for the humans. You want the dog to think that your leaving is just part of the routine. If you feel bad about it, your dog will “feel it” and it will upset him. Read The Human Dog to understand why.

4. Sometimes getting a second dog will help your dog cope with his human pack leaving him. You may still want to crate your dogs while you are gone, however having the crates close to one another can ease your dogs’ tension, as they will not be alone. Just be sure you are the pack leader to your first dog before you venture into getting a second dog. If you successfully position yourself as the pack leader to the first dog, he will help you teach the second one the house rules.

5. If you have more than one dog, and you do not know which dog is being destructive, you need to play private investigator. Peeking through a window or setting up a camcorder or two will help you find out who the perpetrator(s) are.

6. You may need a new attitude. From now on you are not going back in the house when little Fifi cries. You are going to ignore the bad behavior and reward the good. When you go back and hold her or pet and console her, you are rewarding the behavior that you don’t want and it is confusing to your dog because she thinks, “Well, I must be doing the right thing if she comes back and praises me.”

7. Do practice departures. Leave for 2 minutes; come back in; ignore the dog for a minute or two, then give a treat. Increase the time to 5 minutes, then 8 minutes, and so on. Do not reward bad behavior.

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