Attachment is not only a canine issue, but we can understand it perfectly if we look at other species, including humans. One of the most powerful behavior keys of dogs is based on forming a group, a pack. Dogs in a natural environment they are gregarious animals that they organize very well to defend themselves and get food, their survival depends on it, and attachment is the mechanism that unites them.
Attachment for them means having more opportunities to survive in the face of adversity, and although in a domestic environment this no longer works that way, their mind is still organized around this belief or mandate, and it is their way of interacting with humans at home. . If it weren’t for that attachment, probably the dog Wouldn’t be man’s best friend Well, what we like so much about them is their interest in us, their loyal, close and involved attitude. That is the product of attachment. But what is hyperattachment?
It is said that a dog suffers from hyperattachment when this attitude of closeness to the human being becomes so intense that it causes problems, because it is not flexible and triggers negative consequences. Hyperattachment is not a noticeable problem when we are present at home, but is evident when we separate. The dog develops ‘tormented’ behaviour: barks insistently, panting, breaking things and trying to escape. All of these are ways of attracting attention, and he does not do it because he wants to be the center of our gaze, but because he is making an alert call, being alone his mind warns him that something terrible will happen if he does not find company, and specifically ours. That’s why he barks, it’s a call for help. As a result, he gasps and saliva, because from so much barking his body develops anxiety and in the periods in which he stops barking, he needs to salivate.
But the most difficult thing to fit in is that he destroys things: carpets, shoes, cushions and everything he finds. So much so that he can even harm himself. This destructive dynamic is a product of your anxiety and disorientation. Hyperattachment, as you can see, is equivalent to a mental health problem for dogs, as it can be destructive. What the dog tries is to jump from the screen, that is, to generate a situation of change that helps you find company, It is as if loneliness burned him and he had to find an escape. For this reason, one of the final consequences is trying to escape from home, using any hole or his intelligence to open the doors.
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Reasons for hyperattachment
Although there may be unique genetic or behavioral traits, such as temperament or self-affinity of a specific dog, the truth is that hyperattachment is more likely to arise when certain circumstances occur that, in some way, mark or traumatize the dog. A very classic case is that of the adopted dogs who have spent a lot of time alone or in distress, once the dog is settled and used to being part of a family (his pack of humans) separating can generate rebound anxiety equal to or greater than what he suffered when he was alone before of being adopted. All the desire of the dog will be to get out of solitude and get back to being in company. Remember, hyperattachment and its consequences are not a whim of the animal, but appeals to one of the deepest tasks of the dog: to survive, what happens is that in this case the dose of need is disrupted and is harmful to him or to the environment.
Any dog can experience the ravages of hyperattachment when it gets used to living with its pack, that is: with you and your family, and suddenly that situation changes. This is common in dogs that have been adopted from vacation times, like summer, or during a long period of teleworking from their owner, and overnight they see themselves alone at home for many hours, without understanding if you will return or not.
Dogs don’t have a memory capable of understanding that whenever you leave, you come back. They also don’t understand why you’re leaving. For a dog’s mind, hyperattached or not, the fact that you leave the house alone (without his company) is always nonsense: He believes that you should always be accompanied, as in fact dogs and wolves do in a pack environment, purely gregarious. Even if you always come back, even if you always leave it alone for a few hours, this does not change the animal’s feeling that loneliness will cause you serious trouble.
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Tackle the hyperattachment problem
In general, it is a quite serious temperament and ‘mental health’ problem for the dog, so if it destroys things, hurts itself and coexistence becomes complex, the best advice you can receive is to seek help from a trainer or ethologist who puts standard measures on the table and offers you medium-term solutions to treat the problem, almost as a therapy. However, if the level of hyperattachment is not critical, we can put into practice some practical advice.
As we have mentioned before, dogs do not have the memory to determine that it is true that whenever you go out, you end up coming back. However, we can work on the animal’s perception of our outings. Gradually programming many departures, but for a short time, to generate in him a pattern of normality. Even if it’s for a while, don’t disappear or leave him alone for hours, but at intervals of minutes.
On the other hand, we should not carry out any type of negative reinforcement (scolding for finding broken things or punishing him), as that would only contribute to us going deeper into the situation of animal lock. We must ignore the dog’s calls for attention, not go to his complaints. There are dogs that have even come to relieve themselves at home to generate that attention, we must not generate an instantaneous effect or go quickly. The dog instinctively wants to cause changes, but if he doesn’t manage to produce them, he will give up because he won’t be able to establish a pattern of reinforcement if they don’t work for him.
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