Does your dog whine and start to act up when he sees you grabbing your keys and putting on your shoes? Do you often get messages from neighbors while your out about your dog howling nonstop? Do you have to put away all the decorative pillows and blankets before you leave so your dog doesn’t rip them to shreds? If you answered yes to any of these, then your dog might have separation anxiety.
Kit Darling, the infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, says canine separation anxiety is a condition born from love. “Since dogs have been domesticated over thousands of years, there has been the development of a bond between dogs and people,” Darling said. “dogs are social animals and thrive on companionship. They would like to spend all of their time with you if they could.”
Separation Anxiety: What is it?
Separation anxiety refers to excessive fear or worry about separation. Dogs exhibit symptoms of anxiety or distress when they are left alone for a period of time. The most common separation anxiety symptoms in dogs include destructive behavior, house soiling, and excessive vocalization. While there are many theories on why dogs develop separation anxiety, the exact cause is unknown and can’t be pinpointed down to one thing. Separation anxiety is a serious condition and one of the main reasons owners get frustrated and give up their dogs. But there are plenty of things you can do to help.
First, understand what causes your dog to act this way:
- Change of ownership
- Change in family routine or schedule
- Experiencing a traumatic event when the dog is alone
- Moving to a new house
- Loss of a family member
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Being separated from their loved ones might make your dog become very anxious. This can be very difficult for them to cope with. If your dog is showing these signs, then they might have separation anxiety.
- Excessive howling, barking or whining
- Have accidents even though they are trained
- Chew things up, dig holes, scratch at windows/doors
- Drool, pant, or salivate more than normal
- Pace back and forth
- Try to escape
Your dog will not likely do any of these things while you are still around them. A normal dog might do some of these things every once in a blue moon, but one with separation anxiety will do them almost every time they are left alone.
How to Treat Anxiety in Dogs
Treating separation anxiety in dogs can vary depending on the level of nervousness your dog is feeling. Every case is different. First, talk to your vet to rule out any medical problems. Some dogs might have accidents in the house because of infections, hormone problems, or other health conditions. It could also be due to incomplete housebreaking. Some medications can cause accidents. Since anxiety can be due to a number of things, it’s best to be patient and not scold or punish your dog because it will just make things worse. Darling says, “If your dog has mild separation anxiety, counter-condition training might be helpful. This is done by associating the sight or presence of the feared or disliked situation with something the dog really likes. Over time, the dog will learn something feared will predict something good.” Distraction can also be a valuable tool, as a tired dog has less energy for destructive activities.
Fixing separation anxiety is difficult work. It’s all too easy to get frustrated with your dogs behavior. Remember that they’re not choosing to do it out of spite, they’re panicked about their own survival without you. It’s not fun for them either. By working with them and taking the time needed and putting in the effort needed, eventually your dog will slowly become less and less anxious every time you step out. If you have any questions or concerns about separation anxiety or need some new toys to distract them, feel free to head on over to the Barking Lot today.