Is your dog tearing things up, whining and crying just before you leave or during your absence?
Do you feel like you’ve tried everything to change your dog’s behavior and nothing works?
It’s very likely that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, but you may not even know it.
You’re not alone.
The incidence of separation-related behavior problems has been estimated at 20% of the dog population. Over 41% of all dogs suffering from separation anxiety are not treated.
Why? 71% of dog owners do not feel that treating the problem was necessary; 29% do not feel that there is a viable solution for the problems; 13% feel that solutions are too expensive.
Many dog owners tend to assume that they have a ‘bad dog’ when in fact, their dog may be suffering from separation anxiety – which can be cured!
In order to stop your dog from having separation anxiety, it’s extremely important to know the symptoms and causes that led him to develop this behavior.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about separation anxiety in dogs – some of your dog’s behavior that tends towards separation anxiety, some of the causes of this kind of behavior and strategies to help you treat these behavioral changes in your dog.
HOW TO SPOT SEPARATION ANXIETY IN YOUR DOG?
The first identifiable signal for separation anxiety in your dog is if he doesn’t like being alone, not wanting to leave your side whenever you’re home even when you try to briefly step outside of the house.
Or maybe when you come back home after leaving for several hours and you find your home torn apart. This is a sign that they have felt bored and isolated, making them act aggressively and irrationally.
These two are major signs that your dog is suffering from Separation Anxiety disorder and if left untreated, this could mean that you’ll end up having a very unhappy dog.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF SEPARATION ANXIETY IN DOGS
These symptoms may be cyclical every 25 to 45 minutes. As soon as the dog settles down, the symptoms will start again.
- Follows the owners around.
- Vocalization: Howling, whining, may knock things down and may be distracted for a minute but will go right back to howling.
- Destruction: Doors, windows and owners possessions or items with the owner’s scent.
- Elimination: Rarely or never spending time in an outdoor environment. When the owner is gone the dog may eliminate near doors, windows or anywhere else.
- Departure Cue Anxiety: Distress and autonomic signs such as depression, anorexia during departure, pacing, or whining.
- Gastrointestinal Signs: Vomiting or diarrhea.
- Hypersalivation: A lot of drool on the floor or in the kennel.
- Increased Motor Activity: Pacing, lying down and getting up repeatedly.
- Restlessness, shaking and shivering of the body.
- Aggression: Occasionally dogs are aggressive at the owner‘s departure. These dogs have issues that need to be addressed behaviorally.
- Noise phobias and storm phobias.
WHY DOES MY DOG HAVE SEPARATION ANXIETY? IS IT MY FAULT?
The major cause of separation anxiety in dogs is them being left alone, i.e. the fear of being abandoned and this feeling of fear is real to them.
Dogs most times act out their emotions like little children. A dog, much like a child who can’t really talk, display emotions by crying or picking up and throwing objects just to get your attention.
They are not really aware that this is bad behavior and it is now left to you to correct this behavior.
Separation anxiety typically occurs in the following cases:
- A dog has never or rarely been left alone or the ones that were not properly integrated into their first home and got relegated to a basement, garage or yard.
- Dogs who were removed from their mother and littermates too early (prior to 8 weeks of age) or too late (after 14 weeks).
- After a traumatic event (from the dog‘s point of view) such as a period of time spent at a shelter or boarding kennel, or an event that occurred which was a significantly frightening experience for your dog.
- Change in the owner’s work schedule.
- The household has moved to a new home, or a new pet or person comes into the home.
- Dogs that have been abandoned at key points in their psychological development.
THE DEGREE OF ANXIETY VARIES FROM DOG TO DOG
For example, some dogs get anxious when the owner is gone for an extended period of time. Some have such a severe case that they follow the owner from room to room.
Other dogs can tolerate being alone in a room but will check frequently to reassure themselves that the owner is still in the house, and then go back to their previous activity.
Other dogs do not become anxious until the owner actually leaves the home.
DID YOU KNOW THAT SOME BREEDS ARE MORE PRONE TO SEPARATION ANXIETY?
Like many human behaviors, it could be caused by brain chemistry. A dog that is genetically predisposed may have the condition triggered by stress.
It’s worth doing some research into your dog’s breed(s) to help you localize the problem. The dog breeds that are most prone to anxiety are usually identified as:
- German Shepherds
- Australian Shepherd
- Labrador Retriever
- Border Collie
- Cocker Spaniel
- Bichon Frise
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Italian Greyhound
- Toy Poodle
- German Shorthaired Pointer
TAKE ACTION – STRATEGIES TO TREAT SEPARATION ANXIETY IN DOGS
Treating separation anxiety in dogs is a long process that takes time. You need to be committed and dedicated.
Dogs naturally like to be part of a pack and to them, you’re the head of the pack, hence that’s why they feel distressed whenever you’re away.
Dogs also don’t like to be alone, that’s how they are wired. They also love to receive care and attention, making them do things (sometimes irrational) at various points just to get your attention.
Your dog needs to know that you are not abandoning him, he is only trying to show you love and affection and keep you happy.
SOME OF THE STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO EASE SEPARATION ANXIETY IN DOGS
The goal is to reduce your dog’s dependence on you so that he can overcome this fear and feel secure when you’re temporarily away from home.
Train your dog to sit down firmly and gradually increase the distance between you two as you leave your house.
The idea is to move away from your dog in bits while he remains in position. You can then return and reward your dog with a treat when you come back and find him in position.
Take your dog for a 15-20 minutes’ walk or longer every day before you leave the house.
Dogs normally behave better when they are exhausted from exercise, leaving them tired and less aggressive and sometimes making them fall asleep.
Running with your dog is a great option too. Dogs love to run, and aside from the health benefits, running with your dog can also be an incredible bonding experience. You’ll both be more active, healthier and happier for it!
Make sure your dog has toys to play with while you’re not around.
Interactive dog toys аrе manufactured tо hеlр improve cognition аnd аllоw уоur dog tо improve their problem-solving skills. Your pooch will focus on the toy, leaving him less bored and anxious. Boredom increases anxiety in dogs.
To erase any possibility of your dog’s irrational behavior being as a result of any medical condition, you should take your dog to visit a vet doctor regularly.
Vets may also be able to give you tips that can help your dog feel less anxious when you’re not around and they may also suggest some medications for your dog that can gradually ease him into being alone with little or no stress.
You can help your dog in a number of ways completely unrelated to drugs.
TAKING THE NATURAL ROUTE
DOG APPEASING PHEROMONES (DAP)
Pheromones are chemicals produced by lactating female dogs that, when smelled, can produce a calming effect. Pheromone products, such as Comfort Zone® with Dog Appeasing Hormone (DAP) may help some dogs with separation anxiety. DAP comes as a plug-in diffuser or dog calming collar.
DOG CALMING ESSENTIAL OILS
The lavender scent is known for its peace and calming effect and helps relieve stress during fireworks, separation, etc.
Place a drop of Lavender Essential Oil on your hands and let your dog pick up the scent, pat it on the top of your dog’s ears and head, avoiding eyes and inner ears.
The company Through a Dog’s Ear designed music specifically to reduce anxiety in dogs and it has been clinically demonstrated to calm the dog nervous system.
KEEP YOUR HOME SAFE FOR THE DOG WHILE YOU’RE AWAY
If your dog has separation anxiety they can harm themselves with their erratic behavior when you’re not around. Ensure that the home is safe for them.
You should check out this post for some great ideas to keep your dog busy while you’re gone.
Experts agree that separation anxiety is a panic reaction, and definitely not an attempt by the dog to “spite” their owners.
It’s important to realize that the destruction and house soiling that often occurs with separation anxiety is not the dog‘s attempt to punish or seek revenge on its owner for being left alone, but rather is actually part of a panic response.
It’s a dreadful condition because a dog expresses his loneliness in the most destructible manner like jumping on visitors, destroying the home interior and what not. Scolding or punishing the dog will only lead to confusion, more anxiety, and worse behavior.
With time, love and patience, your dog can overcome his separation anxiety. You also have the choice of leaving your dog at a dog day care facility or a boarding kennel so that you don’t have to worry about them all day.
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