Does your Cocker Spaniel leave puddles on the floor, chew your furniture or bark and whine when you leave her home alone? Cocker Spaniels often become very attached to their owners and tend to get extremely anxious when left home alone. Understanding your pet's separation anxiety will help you with her treatment.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Since Cocker Spaniels are known for being so attached to their owners, it is not recommended that people who have to be away from their dog most of the day choose a Cocker Spaniel as their pet. Separation anxiety is a nervous, panicking state that your dog suffers from when left alone. If your dog acts extremely nervous before you leave the house or has a frantically excited reaction when you come home, or if she chews furniture, urinates in the house, scratches the door or howls the entire time you're gone she may have separation anxiety. On the other hand, if she's digging through the trash or only chewing on items with strong smells, such as leather items or shoes, she is probably just bored or curious. Make sure you rule out other reasons before you treat her for separation anxiety.
Severe Separation Anxiety
Cocker Spaniels want to be with their owners every moment of the day. If your pup is harming herself trying to get out of her crate or the house when you're gone, such as breaking her teeth or nails or jumping through a glass window, she has severe separation anxiety. You will need to work with her much longer on the treatments below and leave the house for very short increments of time. Only increase the amount of time you're gone by a few seconds each time you leave. Whenever possible, any dog with severe separation anxiety should be watched by a friend or go to doggy day care while their owner is at work.
Separation anxiety is typically caused by changes in the dog's lifestyle. These changes can be the loss of another family pet, loss of a member of the dog's human family or something as simple as a change in your dog's routine because of your work schedule. Separation anxiety is common in dogs who have been abandoned by a previous owner. Cocker Spaniels get so attached to their owners that being abandoned or given away to another family can be extremely traumatic for them.
Exercise and Counter-conditioning
Be sure you wear your Cocker Spaniel out with exercise before you leave the house. Leave her with a bowl of fresh water and feed her just before you go. This will allow her to relax or sleep for part of the time you're away, leaving less time for worrying. Another effective way to treat the anxiety is through counter-conditioning. You can do this by giving her a treat or bone she really enjoys every time you leave. The treat will help her associate you leaving the house with something she loves, and it will also take her mind off of you being gone while she enjoys it.
Leaving and Coming Back Home
Work with your Cocker Spaniel daily, to help her realize that you leaving the house is normal, and that you'll always come back. Start by leaving the house for five minutes, then leave for ten minutes then 20 minutes and so on, until you can leave for a work day without your pup getting anxious. Don't give her a big goodbye before you leave the house and don't greet her for the first five minutes when you return. This shows that you leaving the house is no big deal, and coming back home is just business as usual. Eventually your pup will feel the same.
Courtney McCaffrey graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008 with a B.A. in media studies. She has served as an editor for Blooming Twig Books and the MADA Writing Services publishing company. She is now a writer on various outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and bodysurfing.