Separation panic. Isolation distress. Separation anxiety
Noah suffers from separation panic whenever he’s left without human company. He’s most distressed when his young lady owner’s mother leaves him.
The whole family suffer too. Their two happy Standard Poodles are no substitute for human company.
Not only does it distress the family, it upsets the neighbour.
Every day, at considerable expense, they drop Noah off to daycare on the way to work. Apart from the five to six dogs, there is always at least one other human present. He is never alone.
Noah is a French Bulldog, age three. He’s very large for a Frenchie – black, velvety and affectionate. If it were not for his separation panic I would have no reason to be there either for him or for their other two dogs.
Separation panic, a phobia
Separation panic is a bit like a disease that is very hard to cure and may flare up again later if not watched. Terry Haward describes it as a phobia in this great little article.
To quote the Arizona Human Society: ‘Most dogs that are struggling with being alone have “isolation distress.” Isolation distress means a dog is comfortable as long as a human being, any human being, is with them. Adding another dog to the equation rarely comforts the dog. Their distress is human-centric’.
This is how it is for Noah.
He panics especially when the people he is closest to walk out on him – the mother in particular. She is the person who is with him the most. Every time she sits down he is on her and she constantly fusses him. He follows her everywhere. He is over-attached to her.
She is dynamic, lovely lady. Watching all three dogs at her heels whenever she moves, it was clear that her Poodles just want to be in on any action. Noah, however, is clearly anxious.
Hearing him howling from outside distresses the ladies. It understandably upsets the neighbour.
Noah howls continuously until they return.
To make a systematic plan work in the best way they can, Noah should be as calm and emotionally secure as possible. He should also feel safe when left – away from outside noises.
It will help if the mother gradually weans him off her, bit by bit, so he can get used to being more independent of her. She will have breaks from constantly touching him. Over-dependency makes any person or animal vulnerable.
A systematic plan – slowly slowly….
The plan will involve shutting doors on Noah, using the same ’magic’ leaving words each time along with special food. Words like ‘Back Soon’ or ‘Be Good’. The food should be something he particularly likes and gets at no other time.
Initially they will only shut the door on him for a couple of seconds and then open it again whilst taking no notice of him.
The plan will gradually involve using various different doors including the front door.
A bit at a time, they will shut the door for a bit longer. It’s essential they return before any separation panic starts to set in.
Meanwhile, every family member leaving the house (Noah won’t be alone) should say the ‘magic’ words as they go and give him a piece of food. She responds with a lot of fuss.
When they come back home they will be boring! Their return is no big deal unless they make it so. Unsurprisingly, Noah goes mental when the mother returns, irrespective of who is already in the house. She then makes a big fuss of him.
The positive side to their ultimate success is that they use a good daycare where he us happy – if sometimes reluctant to leave the mother. They won’t have to leave him alone at all while they work on his separation panic.