Cocker Spaniels are affectionate and sociable. They are energetic and, generally, happy animals. However, this happiness is, to a great degree is contingent upon human companionship. Cocker Spaniels are not likely to remain happy if left to spend a great deal of time alone.
Some cockers may seem a bit "down in the dumps," if left alone regularly or for an unusually long period of time; others, may exhibit full-blown symptoms of Cocker Spaniel separation anxiety.
Before describing these symptoms, it is important to point out that when a cocker, or any dog, is experiencing separation anxiety, they are not intentionally "getting back at you" for leaving them. They are basically in a state of fear or panic. They are not considering, or even aware of, the "goodness" or "badness" of their behavior. They are simply reacting. Punishing or scolding your Cocker Spaniel will only make things more difficult for both of you.
There are several behaviors that may indicate that your cocker spaniel is experiencing separation anxiety. It may seem endearing, and indeed be flattering, when your doggie follows you from room to room. Maybe he or she just loves you lots-n-lots-which I'm sure the pup does-but it could also be a sign that your Cocker is afraid of you leaving and does not want to let you out of its sight.
It is also adorable and flattering when pets greet us with great enthusiasm when we return after being gone for several hours. Some days, it can be nice to know someone is glad to see us! However, if your Cocker Spaniel goes ballistic when you return from a quick trip to the mailbox, there could be a problem.
If your cocker is normally housebroken but regularly urinates or does other business indoors when left alone it could be a reaction to the separation, providing it's for a reasonable amount of time, and your pet has been let out to go prior to your departure. Again, this is not your pet's way of punishing you. It is a reaction to stress.
Dogs, including Cocker Spaniels, who suffer from separation anxiety may sometimes cause minor to significant property damage through destructive actions such as (nervous) chewing and / or scratching at doors and windows in an attempt to break free and track you down, like a furry little stalker.
They often vocalize their distress by barking, whining, and even howling while you are gone. If there is sufficient distance between you and your neighbors, this is not much of a problem for your neighbors; but if you happen to live in a duplex or apartment, it is not so good!
What can you do about Cocker Spaniel separation anxiety? You love your Cocker Spaniel but feel frustrated and the stress is getting to you. Do not give up help is on the way.
The following are suggestions that will help you with Cocker Spaniel separation anxiety. There are many more suggestions trainers can provide, but for now this would be a good start. The important thing to understand and remember is that separation anxiety is correctable. A key point is ensuring that your Cocker Spaniel gets plenty of exercise and to be persistent in you retraining for normal behavior.
1) The very first thing to do is to confer with your veterinarian. They can run some test and eliminate any underlying disorders or medical problems. Dogs, like people, can often be treated with the same anti-depressant and anxiety medications used by some humans for anxiety disorders. Before medicating your dog it would be sound advice to confer with a trainer regarding your Cocker Spaniel separation anxiety issue as well.
2) Gently soothe your Cocker Spaniel before leaving and use the same words each time so that your dog eventually becomes familiar with the phrase and what it means.
3) Leave clothing or bedding with your scent in a pile on the floor for your cocker to sleep and / or roll in. An old blanket works fine.
4) Do not attempt to excite your dog when you return from being out. Wait a couple of minutes after you return to give your dog attention.
5) Consider crate training. However, make sure to properly crate train the pup before attempting to confine your pet for extended hours. Crate training has many benefits but keeping your pup locked up all day is not one of them.
6) Leave a radio (talk station) or television on. Hearing human voices may calm your dog by allowing him / her to believe there are people near.
7) Desensitize your cocker spaniel to your absence by gradually and incrementally increasing your time away (within reason).
8) Dog sitting is a very viable and affordable alternative. A dog sitter will visit your pup on a set schedule during the day affording some playtime and relief. If you are going on vacation or a business trip, check into a Cocker Spaniel Rescue group. Many times members provide dog sitting services at their own homes at very reasonable prices.
9) Do not punish your dog it will only increase the problem and cause confusion with the pup.
10) Have patience and continue taking the corrective measures. Many dogs improve dramatically with-in a reasonable amount of time.
A simple solution that has work for many people is to crate the pup for no longer than four hours. Before crating take your pup outside so it can relive itself and get a little exercise. Ensure the crate has soft bedding, water available and some enticing toys. Leave a radio on. Lure the pup into the crate with a treat. I have actually have had dogs that would enter the crate by themselves if they thought I was leaving the house. Exit slowly and you are on your way to solving Cocker Spaniel separation anxiety.
If none of these suggestions help with your Cocker Spaniel separation anxiety issue, It 'time to revisit your vet. Anxiety medications might be in order to help with the retraining.
Good luck on your training.
Charlie Draper, Publisher