A doberman with separation anxiety is like a tornado tearing through your living room when you go to work. The behavior is not out of anger, it's a way of channeling the anxiety. Unless you enjoy replacing your walls and flooring, you must take steps to stop your dobe's fear.
The symptoms of separation anxiety occur whether you're gone two minutes or two hours. Anxiety begins while you prepare to leave. Excessive whining, barking and howling are used to get your attention and bring you home. When you don't respond, destructive chewing occurs, which means destroyed doors and door frames, carpeting, furniture and even walls. In an attempt to escape and search for you, your dobe uses his powerful legs and paws to try digging through doorways, windows and walls. During a state of panic, your otherwise house-trained dobe starts urinating and defecating on the floors.
The underlying cause of your dobe's anxiety is he feels insecure when you leave the house. It's natural for a doberman puppy to show anxiety the first time he's home alone, so this does not indicate a puppy has separation anxiety, according to author Lou-Ann Cloidt. Some triggers that could lead to an older puppy's or a dobe adult's separation anxiety include a change in family's schedules, being abandoned during key points of psychological development, frequently spending time in isolation or being removed from his litter before he turns 8 weeks old or after 14 weeks old. The loss of a family member or pet can also cause anxiety, according to a Partnership for Animal Welfare.
Teach sit and stay commands using positive reinforcement to increase your doberman's confidence. Start your doberman in a sitting positing and hold a soft treat in front of his nose. Tell your doberman to stay. If your dobe resumes sitting for 5 seconds, give him a treat. If he stands up, put him back in the sit position and start again. Continue these steps increasing the time to 30 seconds and then to 60 seconds. Move out of your dog's sight and reward him lavishly if he stays in the sit position. You also need a safe and comfortable area for your doberman to go when you're not home. This area must include comfortable bedding, sturdy chew toys, food and dirty laundry with your scent, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Have your doberman spend time in the safe area while you're home and in his sight. Gradually increase the duration of time he spends in the safe area and once he's relaxed, make small trips out of his sight, such as taking out the garbage or checking the mail. Gradually make your time outside the home longer and longer. You can also use these steps to prevent separation anxiety. Discuss an anti-anxiety medication with your dobe's veterinarian to help relax you dobe.
Dobermans have more energy than most breeds and require at least 60 minutes of running each day. Pent-up energy is going to increase your dobe's anxiety when you leave and increase his capability of destruction. Do not overindulge your dobe with petting and attention. Dobermans are called velcro dogs because they stick to their owners. If a doberman wants attention he's difficult to ignore since he maneuvers his head under your hand ready for petting or bulldozes his nose under your arm in need of a hug. If your dobe does this, have him sit and stay while you ignore him for three minutes -- then you pet him. Giving attention when your dobe is demanding your love is creating a needy dog that's likely to develop anxiety when you're gone.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
- “Doberman Pinscher: A Comprehensive Guide to Owning and Caring for Your Dog;” Lou-Ann Cloidt; 2007
- The Humane Society of the United States: Separation Anxiety
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Separation Anxiety: Prevention and Solutions
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.