It is in the Rottweiler’s nature to become loyal to the leader of his/her pack – the one he/she considers to be his/her master. It is also in his/her nature to become restless or provoked once his/her master leaves. When you leave your home, it is not uncommon to find that your Rottweiler is barking and visibly stressed. They may even destroy your home or garden, scratching at the doors or windows, chewing up the furniture, and maybe even urinating or defecating on the floor during your absence. These are all common signs of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety can result from suffering a traumatic experience, such as:-
- Becoming lost in unfamiliar surroundings.
- The death of a person.
- Another pet in the household can trigger the onset.
- Becoming part of a new family.
- In many cases, no single event causes separation anxiety, it may be the outcome of a range of incidents.
Outcome of separation anxiety almost always includes one or more of the following behaviours when you’re not at home:-
- Destructive behaviours, such as chewing pillows or furniture, mutilating plants, or relentless scratching at doors and windows.
- Constant barking, whining, or howling.
- Urinating or defecating indoors.
- Intense, persistent pacing.
- Attempting to “escape” a room or crate to the point of self-injury.
- Physiological responses, such as dilated pupils or excessive panting.
Several factors indicate that the problem is serious:
- The behaviour occurs every time you leave.
- The behaviour occurs only in your absence.
How to treat the problem
Anxious behaviours begin even before you leave your dog alone. For example, your dog knows that when you put on your jacket, you’re about to leave the house. The minute you reach for your jacket, he begins pacing and howling.
Drugs – In some cases, a veterinarian may prescribe drugs to treat serious separation anxiety.
Desensitization – Desensitization is the method most often used to treat separation anxiety. However, it entails gradually acclimatizing your dog to your departure. It is strongly recommended that you seek help from a reputable behaviourist if you think desensitization is your best treatment option. It usually takes eight weeks or less to bring symptoms under control. In rare cases, much longer. For now, here’s a very simplified example of how you would approach the problem. The first step is to get your dog used to hearing the sound of your keys jingling. When he can do that without exhibiting any signs of distress, add picking up your briefcase. Then add walking to the door. Then opening the door. You’ll continue adding actions, in baby steps, until you can leave the house for a period of an hour or more without consequence.
If this seems like a slow and tedious process, and it is slow but effective. In the meantime, keep your greetings and goodbyes as low-key as possible. This signals to your dog that coming and going are casual, common occurrences — no need for drama or spectacular displays of emotion.
How to prevent the problem
Happily, separation anxiety is preventable if you’re starting with a puppy. The key is teaching him that leaving him alone actually means good things — the goal is for him to associate your departure with something positive. Some effective techniques:
- Leave Kong’s stuffed with peanut butter or cottage cheese ready for him to dig into as soon as you leave.
- Hide small treats around the house or in his crate. Make sure his favourite toys are tucked safely in places he knows to search. This gives him something to do while you’re gone and helps eliminate boredom.
- Tire him out. See that he receives plenty of physical and mental exercise and that he gets lots of time with you. When you do leave, he’ll be more content to sleep or just take it easy.
A crate can also be an effective preventive tool. Dogs who’ve been properly introduced to their crate tend to feel safe and secure in this private den. In some cases, dogs prefer the sanctuary of a crate to being left alone in a big open house. Since every dog is different, it’s important to pay attention to exactly which options are comforting to your dog — and which aren’t — before leaving him home alone.
Unfortunately, sometimes separation anxiety just isn’t preventable, especially with an older dog. Experience or genetics may have already triggered the onset. But, thanks to desensitization, crating techniques, and an understanding of the disorder, it’s treatable. In fact, a diagnosis of separation anxiety in no way precludes a healthy and happy existence for your dog. With some extra effort, your relationship can be extremely satisfying for you both.
Bottom line: Separation anxiety has little to do with training or discipline; the behaviours are a result of the severe panic your dog feels when you’re not there. Left untreated, it causes damage to your house and belongings — and serious psychological suffering for your dog. For situations that warrant desensitization treatment, it is strongly recommended that you consult a professional.