Would Getting a Second Dog Help with Separation Anxiety?

Bob Ryder, CSAT, PMCT-4, CPDT-KA

Your dog has separation anxiety.

Maybe you brought home a brand new puppy full of energy and innocence from a breeder. Perhaps you have a handsome adult dog rescued from the shelter who is coming up on their first “gotcha day” anniversary. You might have a wizened senior dog who’s been in your home their whole life (where have the years gone?) and knows you better than you know yourself.

How ever you came together, you notice your dog has become terrified of being alone (or even of just being apart from you). When you arrive home find your dog trembling, the carpet is soiled, and chewing marks are collecting on the trim by the door. You receive texts from neighbors letting you know there’s been a ceaseless barrage of barking and baying. “Thought you’d want to know. Is your dog okay?”

What to do?

Searching for answers (and a solution ASAP please), you discover your dog, like millions of others, is suffering from separation related anxiety. This means he or she experiences the canine version of a panic attack when left alone. You learn that training can be effective, but it’s not likely to be the quick fix you hope. Confused and overwhelmed, it occurs to you, “Maybe all we need is another dog for company. That’ll work – won’t it?”

Sadly, the answer is “probably not.” I won’t say it can never “work” – but the odds are against it being the quick and complete solution you’re yearning for. Here’s what you need to consider…

First, there’s a fairly strong chance that bringing another dog in the house won’t make much difference for your current dog’s fear of being alone. For a very few and far between number of separation anxiety (SA) dogs, having another dog can help somewhat. Even then, the SA behaviors still happen when the other animal isn’t there. And for the vast majority of SA dogs, the problem behaviors happen even with another pet present. SA almost always manifests as a dog’s fear of being apart from human companionship that motivates the problem behaviors.

What adding another dog means

Not convinced? I get it – desperate times seem to call for desperate measures. But consider, whether bringing another dog home “works” or not (spoiler – it almost surely won’t), having a second dog still requires twice the time, energy and money to feed, supply, train, groom, manage, exercise, bond with and otherwise care for. In fact, it’s usually the case that having a second dog requires more than twice the commitment and resources, as the dogs’ relationship with each other has to be managed as well as each dog’s relationship with all the human family members. Taking good care of one dog is challenging enough. Taking good care of a second dog is a huge responsibility.

Further still, think of the tough spot you’re putting the new dog into. “Hi Max, welcome to your new home. This is Milo, your brother. Whenever we leave him alone he barks and howls non-stop and tears the place apart. It’s your job to make sure he feels safe and secure so he doesn’t do that anymore. We’ll be home in a couple of hours – good luck.” How hard is it to predict that Max won’t have a clue how to help Milo relax, and might very well feel stressed or overwhelmed himself being alone with another dog having a panic attack. Talk about a set up for failure!

The reason to adopt a second (or third, etc) dog is because you enjoy dogs and feel you have the resources to offer the resources for a good life in your home. Dog’s are inherently high-maintenance. Bringing another into your life can be very fulfilling if you understand what you’re signing up for. What it won’t do is make your life easier.

So what’s the answer?

The most effective and efficient solution to help your dog get past separation anxiety is a gentle training process called systematic desensitization practiced with the guidance of a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT). If your dog is having problems being home alone, let us help. We’d be happy to schedule a free 30-minute discovery call to begin a training program for your frightened best friend.

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