Dec 01 , 2020
Separation anxiety is one of the worst feelings any dog can ever have. There is nothing worse than being left alone by a pet parent. As a dog owner, it breaks your heart to see how your dog becomes stressed when you are about to leave.
You would want to stay with your dog 24/7 if it would mean freedom from separation anxiety, but you know you can’t do that. You have other stuff to do, like work, grocery shopping, and meeting your family and friends.
Is there anything you can do to help your dog?
Will your dog be able to cope with separation anxiety?
Will his condition improve through time?
There are probably too many questions on your mind right now. We’ll help address the most common issues related to dog separation anxiety. Understanding what separation anxiety is, its causes and identifying symptoms may enable you to handle your dog’s separation anxiety and provide necessary interventions that will allow him to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle, free from distress.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is an abnormal dog behavior that is often characterized by destructive behaviors and extreme anxiety when left alone by their owners.
Some dog owners think that their dogs are just disobedient or disruptive, and they often get mad at their dogs because of it. Little did they know that separation anxiety isn’t just about acting unreasonably when owners are leaving. That’s because dogs feel anxious whenever they are left alone.
Some dogs start to feel agitated when they sense their owner is preparing to leave, or even when their owners are not present in the same room. Some of them also try to stop their owners from going by exhibiting behaviors such as loud barking. When an owner leaves, dogs becomes disruptive and destructive after being left alone and may start breaking things or urinating and defecating.
There are many other signs that a dog is in distress because of separation anxiety, and we will discuss it further along this article.
By the time the owner comes back, no matter how short or long he has been gone, dogs feel excited and come up to the owner as if it’s been years since they last saw each other.
What causes a dog’s separation anxiety?
There has been no concrete evidence of why dogs develop separation anxiety. Until now, there has been little understanding as to why some dogs feel anxious when left alone compared to others. However, it is believed that some of the traumatic factors that trigger anxiety are:
- Being abandoned in a shelter. There is a higher percentage of dogs suffering from separation anxiety if they have been left in a shelter before. The feeling of being left in the care of others rather than the owner they have been accustomed to, can lead to feelings of fear of being left again.
- Given away to a new family or guardian. When a dog is given away, there is a change in the people he interacts with, and this can trigger separation anxiety.
- Change in routine. Alterations in schedules and routines are also one of the factors for a dog to develop separation anxiety. For example, when you work for only 8 hours a day then shift to a 12-hour schedule, the increase in the time your dog has to wait may lead to the development of separation anxiety.
- Sudden absence of a family member. The absence of a family member who may have died or moved out can trigger anxiety since the dog isn’t accustomed to not having the person around.
- Traumatic experience when left alone. Traumatic experiences such as the house being robbed while the dog is alone in the home may trigger fear of being left alone.
Signs that your dog has separation anxiety
The signs of separation anxiety are often mistaken as being disobedient or solely for attention-seeking purposes. Dog owners must understand that there is a vast difference between dogs that lack training and dogs that have separation anxiety.
- Excessive barking and howling
- Chewing and clawing on doors, windows, and furniture
- Urinating and defecating in unacceptable places
- Coprophagia, or the act of eating feces
- Unusual drooling and salivation
How to help your dog cope with separation anxiety
You must know that separation anxiety is also categorized by different levels. Dogs should be dealt with differently based on the level of their separation anxiety.
In mild separation anxiety, counterconditioning might help limit or solve the issue. Counterconditioning is a technique wherein the dog’s fearful or aggressive reaction will be changed to a more pleasant and positive one. For example, you should make your dog think that being left alone can actually lead to good things for him, such as good food and playing with great toys that he can have only when he’s alone.
Little things, such as leaving your recently used clothing, will also help pacify your dog’s anxiety. Not making a big fuss when you leave and arrive can also help. Once you come back home, ignore your dog for a bit and then calmly pat him so that he’ll realize that being gone is no big deal.
Helping dogs with moderate to severe separation anxiety can be tricky since it requires more advanced techniques such as desensitization and complex counterconditioning. It is best to consult with your dog’s veterinarian and other behavioral professionals who can better provide you with a detailed plan on what to do to address your dog’s separation anxiety.
In addition to professional help, the best that you can do at home to help your dog cope with his moderate to severe separation anxiety is to provide a safe place for him to minimize his destructive behavior. A safe place is somewhere that helps him feel at ease and comfort while you are away.
Providing some over-the-counter calming products will also help your dog ease his mind and anxiety while you are away.
Dog separation anxiety can be tiresome for both you and your dog. Treatment and conditioning may take a while, so, you need patience to deal with it. Do not lose your cool and get mad at your dog. Always remember to stay calm and provide unconditional love to your pooch until the problem has been sorted out.