It is normal for a dog to display some sadness and agitation as its family prepares to leave home. When, however, the dog becomes extremely anxious and distressed whenever it is left alone, this is anything but normal. Separation anxiety is what its name suggests – the dog panics when it is separated from its family.
English Springer spaniels commonly suffer from separation anxiety. As hunting dogs by design, Springers cherish being close to humans, with whom the dogs formed an enduring partnership. The downside of this bond is that a Springer may become anxious when separated from its family.
In the following discussion, I will describe the symptoms of a Springer’s separation anxiety and show you how to deal with the situation. I will also suggest home cures and remedies that may help to reduce the dog’s distress.
Do English Springer Spaniels Have Separation Anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the English Springer spaniel’s acknowledged behavioral traits. Springers are happy, loving, playful pets with endless energy, warm nature, and gentle temperament. Springers are also fiercely protective, and they are likely to be the first to notice an unknown person approaching the house and sound the alarm by barking.
These vigilant dogs have a fretful and anxious side as well. Coupled with their deep, and some say, hard-wired, bonding with their human family, Springers may develop separation anxiety of various degrees. While more difficult to diagnose, light anxiety is easier to contain and cure.
Extreme anxiety is more demanding, intense, relentless, and much harder to contain and cure. Extremely anxious dogs are a source of stress for themselves and their human family. They cause damage and may alienate family members and neighbors, who may find it hard to live next to a dog who barks unstoppably day after day.
Symptoms Of English Springer Spaniels Separation Anxiety
Various separation anxiety symptoms exist. They do not appear in any order and may indicate causes other than separation anxiety. A symptom may appear at any time and with a different intensity. Some dogs will show more symptoms than others.
Attempts To Escape
The Springer displays separation anxiety by digging or scratching floors, fences, and other barriers. It is trying to escape because it is anxious or simply bored. This may be happening because it was left alone for an extended period. Maybe it has nothing to play with or keep it occupied.
When the dog is left alone, its separation anxiety will increase. Without any sign that its human family is coming back, it may become depressed. Springers show depression by refusing to eat or go for a walk. Some hide in a cupboard or under the bed. A depressed dog may ‘write itself off by trying to become invisible.
Much Too Intense Welcoming
When the family returns home, the dog’s reaction is intense and overenthusiastic, and the Springer looks out of control. This behavior is the dog’s way of showing how anxious it is – the larger the reaction, the bigger its distress.
Dogs may have an occasional accident. They will be the first to ensure you know it wasn’t intended. Coming home and finding feces and urine scattered around the house signifies distress, especially with a house-trained dog. Some anxious dogs may also vomit in various places inside the house.
Refusal To Eat
When a dog has separation anxiety it may refuse to eat. This could even include their favorite food and treats. Their anxiety turns on their flight-or-flight instinct, which suppresses their appetite, and they stop eating while their family is away. This behavior happens when the dog forgoes his food while guarding the place in the family’s absence.
Pacing And Restlessness
When dogs become anxious as their family leaves home, they may become restless and pace aimlessly in the house. This behavior seems automatic, an intuitive way for the dog to try calming down. It will walk around, and stop to listen for the family, in case they return.
Anxious Dogs May Harm Themselves
One of the more disturbing symptoms of separation anxiety is self-harm. The dog may continuously lick or gnaw its paws, even after the injured paw bleeds. The danger of self-harm is that the open wound may not heal because the dog would keep licking it.
Nervous Reactions: Panting, Trembling, And Vocalizing
In addition to pacing and restlessness, separation anxiety may trigger a nervous reaction in the Springer. The anxious dog may pant and tremble unconditionally. Its shortness of breath increases anxiety, similar to a panic attack in humans. Trembling adds to the stress and results in the dogs whining and barking in an extreme form of anxiety.
How To Deal With Your Springer’s Separation Anxiety
First, you need to address your Springer’s symptoms by making an appointment to see the vet and ensure that the dog’s symptoms point to separation anxiety and not other issues. The vet can consider if medical treatment and medication are required. They may recommend lifestyle changes you and your Springer should undertake.
Helping your Springer to overcome separation anxiety is a process rather than an immediate lifestyle change. Quick and drastic changes will only increase the dog’s anxiety. If you want to help the dog to overcome their separation anxiety, it is best to take a step-by-step approach to the training process.
Punishment Is Pointless
The first and best way to create a sense of safety for your Springer is to avoid things that cause anxiety. Punishing the dog for separation anxiety-related actions like the destruction of home items, defecation, or incessant barking will increase the dog’s anxiety. Ignoring the dog when it barks and whines may teach it that calling for help is pointless.
Learn What Makes Your Springer Tick
You must not leave your dog alone for more than 8 hours. The family’s comings and goings may trigger the dog’s anxiety, as it learns the difference between “out to walk,” in which the dog is included, “out to throw the garbage,” which is a short outing, and “out to work/school,” which includes many clues that trigger the dog’s anxiety.
Find out what clues trigger the dogs and minimize or eliminate them. Leaving home should be as calm and quiet as possible. No need to walk on tiptoes; just try to calm the general atmosphere down. The same is right when returning home – a quiet and calm entry adds to a relaxed atmosphere.
Noise, especially sudden noise from outside the house, triggers the dogs. Noise unsettles your Springer and triggers vocal reactions – barking and whining. Use music as a background sound around the empty house to mask outside noises while reducing the silence in the house itself.
Create A Safe Spot For Your Springer
Observe the dog for a few days. Is there a place, maybe a room, in the house the dog prefers to use and considers its own? A closed balcony, bathroom? If the dog is already crate-trained, use the crate as the dog’s safe spot. The safe spot should include a comfortable resting spot, a water bowl, and the dog’s favorite toys.
It is better to install pet gates than to close the door since pet gates limit the dog’s movement around the house, giving it a sense of open space. Some dog owners suggest leaving food-dispensing toys that distract the dog while providing intake-controlled healthy treats.
Your English Springer Spaniel may develop separation anxiety as its family leaves home daily for work, school, etc. Avoid leaving the dog alone for longer than 8 hours because, as time passes, they become increasingly agitated and anxious. It is important to provide the dog with a safe spot and a calm but not dead silent environment.
Training the dog to overcome separation anxiety requires the dog’s triggers to be observed and acknowledged. Energetic coming and goings, a noisy neighborhood, boredom, and lack of activity may all contribute to your Springer’s distress.