Attachment Disorder in Dogs

Dogs with attachment disorder have likely been abused or deprived of attachment or bonding within the first several weeks to several months of life. Dogs with attachment disorder may exhibit any number of behaviors such as hyperactivity, they can be destructive, eat too much or too little, become clingy or unable to bond with their owners, and they can be impulsive. There are ways to treat attachment disorder in dogs, but as a pet owner, you must learn patience and be prepared to engage the entire family (and a professional trainer) in the treatment process.

Best Treatment Option 

Dogs with attachment disorder are not a lost cause. With patience and a good trainer, your pet can overcome attachment disorder. When dogs are puppies, typically between the ages of 4 and 14 weeks, they learn certain social skills and they bond to their mother, humans, and litter mates. If this period never occurs, meaning a puppy has been taken from his litter and placed in isolation (caged or otherwise), he will have missed the positive socialization period needed to bond and become a good pet.  

An adult dog that has not had enough interaction with a variety of humans as a puppy will be either too timid or too dominating, making him difficult to train. In these cases, pet owners should hire a professional trainer. If the pet is still very young, it may be possible to train him with limited assistance from a professional. The first step in either case, however, is to schedule a consultation with a veterinarian or professional trainer in order to assess just how serious the situation may be. In most cases, the vet or trainer will suggest behavior modification therapy.

Behavior Modification Therapy

If the pet is timid, a trainer will attempt to socialize him in several ways. He will have the pet engage in social situations with other pets on a daily basis. He will observe the pet's behavior and use positive reinforcement when the dog makes progress. For timid dogs, the trainer will also have the pet interact with a variety of humans and use the same technique to reinforce positive behavior and reward progress.

In cases of dominating and destructive dogs, the treatment path might look a little different. Because these pets are considered unpredictable, the trainer will work with the pet one on one until he feels the dog is ready to interact with other pets. This may take weeks of training, and in severe cases, it could take months. Once the pet is deemed safe, the trainer will use the same techniques as he would with a timid pet with attachment disorder.

Doing Your Part

When your pet is no longer in the hands of the trainer, it is up to you to pick up where he leaves off. This means you should continue to reinforce good behavior with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement in the form of verbal responses such as "Good boy," as well as physical responses such as hugs and kisses is critical to your pet's ongoing recovery. A doggie treat here or there couldn't hurt either.