The most common problem every dog owner face is separation anxiety. Dogs who suffer from separation can show weird behavior such as defecating, howling, urinating, chewing and digging. These impolite behaviors not only annoying but also harmful as time goes by. When you leave your dog for a long period of time then he is most likely to suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs are energetic animals & they always lookout to do something but when they find something to do it makes them upset which causes separation anxiety. As a responsible dog owner, it’s important to take your dog to the vet in time because as time goes by the problem will become more severe and it can also cause your dog in self-injury and household destruction. Also, your dog can show aggressiveness when you prepare to leave the home, sometimes the dog will try to stop you from going outside with full force. Separation anxiety is a matter of concern because even if you leave the house for a minute the dog will assume that you are leaving the house for a few years.
Causes of separation anxiety
Many dog owners don’t realize that they are encouraging this problem by being completely unaware of it. When the separation anxiety hits from the beginning the dog becomes concern regarding the absence of the owner.
Nobody wants to live alone & it’s also true for the dogs as well. When you take your puppies outside for socialization everything seems okay then. But sometimes we all need to leave them alone in the house & at a certain period of age, they become very attached to us because the owner becomes the only source of confidence & when they don’t find the owner they become very insecure deep inside.
Also keep in mind that, sometimes new adjustments in the daily life of the dog can also cause separation anxiety in dogs. So before you make any schedule in daily life you should be careful about his issue. However, if the dog is experiencing too much boredom and lack of exercise then it can cause your dog in destructive behavior. If you want to overcome this problem then you need to have enough patience & then take the dog for enough exercise and affection because these are the most important tools that can help your dog to get it over. Dogs who are confident, obedient, and patient are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety.
What causes separation anxiety
Dogs tend to develop separation anxiety for a couple of reasons. If your dog was the victim of abuse from the previous home or had a history of the traumatic separation from the previous owner then it can increase the risk of suffering from separation anxiety. However, sometimes many dogs can miss the normal socialization with other pet animals and people which can also cause separation anxiety. Also if you make any new changes in your regular schedule then the dog can also experience separation anxiety even if the dog has never experienced it before. The main reason behind it is that without you the dog will feel insecure and it will cause stress over time.
There are still many reasons behind the separation anxiety. If you accidentally lose one of your favorite person in life then you would feel sad for a certain period of time until you overcome it. This is what happens to the dog when they lose the company of the most reliable and favorite person they assume that the person won’t come back. There are some other causes of separation anxiety:
Moving to a new house
The sudden absence of a family member
Adjustment problems in the new environments
Lack of confidence and insecurity
If your dog shows some signs because of separation anxiety then do not punish him because it will cause more problems. As a good dog owner, it’s your responsibility to understand the unacceptable behavior of dog & the underlying reason behind it.
Properly identifying the Separation Anxiety
Sometimes many owners become confused with the housetraining problem and the separation anxiety.
Sometimes dog pees inside the house & dog owners believe that it’s a separation anxiety problem but it’s not true. Inappropriate urination is a housetraining problem not a separation anxiety problem. If a dog is dealing with separation anxiety then he will show destructive behavior by trying to escape or chewing or clawing through the doorframes.
House training is similar to the separation anxiety but it’s not completely the same thing.
Signs of separation anxiety
Clawing through the doorframes
What causes separation anxiety in puppies
Puppies are more sensitive than the grown-up dogs. They are less confident than the older dogs so they always look up for someone for shelter & that’s why they rely on the owner. When a puppy owner leaves the house for a long time the puppy feels very nervous which is a major reason for separation anxiety in dogs. Whenever your puppy misses you the puppy can’t accept the fact. Another reason is that when a puppy moves to a new environment it takes time for them to adjust & sometimes they suffer from separation anxiety then.
Keep in mind that if you notice that the puppy is panicking just within 10-15 seconds when you walk out of the house then chances are the puppy is developing the separation anxiety. So, in this case, you need to train your puppy.
Best way to find out separation anxiety
If you have any doubt it’s a good idea to set up a camera in the corner of your house with smartphone monitoring feature. When you are done with the set up then observe the behavior of your dog
If the condition is too severe then you can use a stopwatch when you leave the game & when you are away from the home use the devices to monitor his activity to take notes. If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety then the dog will remain completely silent because of fear or discomfort.
Every day take to monitor the activities & take notes for 5-10 minutes. If your dog is continuously showing some unusual behavior then you can confirm that the dog is dealing with separation anxiety.
As long as you determine that the dog is dealing with separation anxiety then you should start taking care. You can call your friends family or neighbors to look after the dog.
Symptoms of separation anxiety
Your dog will feel discomfort continuously every time you leave the house. After you leave the home the first 15 minutes your dog will become very upset and anxious. If you monitor the activities of the dog then you may find out an increased activity, salivating, and panting.
Sometimes the dog may show some destructive behavior like chewing doorframes or scratching at the carpets.
Dogs who deal with separation anxiety are often barked excessively & loudly.
When you come back home you may notice the dog is wet because of salivation or too much drinking due to having stress.
When you move to another room the dog may follow you by showing sudden anxious behavior.
How to overcome separation anxiety
Take the dog for exercise before you leave the house
If your dog is sleeping then he won’t become anxious whenever you leave the home. So it’s a good idea to take the dog for exercise for a long period of time. This way the dog will become very tired and will feel the urge to sleep for a long time. This is a good way to overcome the separation anxiety in dogs because the dog will keep quiet & resting mood will stop the feeling of discomfort.
Do not give any attention
Sometimes there are some attention seeker & oversensitive dogs who always want to have the special attention from the owner. If your dog has this type of nature then you should talk, or give any attention or eye contact whenever you come back to the home. You should not keep doing this for 5-10 minutes every time after returning to the home.
Sometimes many dogs become very excited when you become angry because that moment dogs think that you are joining him & it increases the excitement. So you should always remain calm & quiet whenever you return to the home. Remember a calm & quiet person can easily overcome the separation anxiety in dogs than the ones who become frustrated.
Over the research of many years, it is now confirmed that audiobooks have a beneficial effect to make a dog relax which also decreases the chances of separation anxiety. You can take the advantaged of these audiobooks whenever you leave the house.
Prevention of separation anxiety
There is a proverb “prevention is better than cure” It’s always a good idea to prevent the separation anxiety before it affects the dog. If you bring a new puppy or dog home for the first time then it’s a good idea to set up a program to help him in being comfortable by being alone for a long period of time. This will help your dog to assume that you haven’t abandoned the dog & will come back. So it decreases the chances of separation anxiety.
Here are some useful tips
Make planning before you bring a new puppy or dog home for the first time. Make sure that you can rely on someone who can stay with the dog for the first few weeks.
Have a playpen or puppy for the dog whenever the dog arrives & make him get used to it.
IF you notice any symptoms of separation anxiety then it’s important to stay close to the dog & give him the company that he needs but do not let him get attached to you. If a dog becomes too attached then it becomes difficult without the owner.
Teach your dog some basic obedience command & allow him to play outside often.
Give your dog his favorite toy which will keep him busy.
Take your dog for exercise before leaving the home
Depending on the condition & the severity level of the dog the treatment options vary. Sometimes the vet may recommend the combination of behavior modification exercise and the anti-anxiety medication. It’s important to understand both the behavior modification and the medication plays a beneficial role in overcoming the separation anxiety. The main advantages of medication are that it will help the dog to relax & have a good sleep. The exercise teaches a dog on how to respond in a stressful situation.
If you take the dog o the vet then he might recommend you some medication which includes clomipramine and fluoxetine. These medications are helpful options for treatments. Remember that it will take some time (2-3 weeks) to completely show it’s an effect. So you need to have enough patience.
Sometimes vets also recommend going with the alprazolam & Trazadone at first. IF the vet recommends any of these ani depression medications then you need to use them exactly as prescribed.
There is another useful option which is behavior modification exercise. Your vet may also recommend you to take the dog to the animal behaviorist or trainer nearby areas. Behavior modification exercise takes several weeks to months to improve the behavior of the dog.
Remember if you teach your dog the sit and down command then you can control the dog very easily. Using these commands puts the dog in a position where they remain calm & silent. Also, don’t forget to put a comfortable bed where your dog can relax.
Another important thing you need to pay attention is that dogs can get some cues before you leave the house. When you regularly shave or put on a make or get dressed up the dog can get these cues that you will leave the home after that. So before you get involved in your regular activities make sure that the dog is not watching.
When a dog lives in a place which is uncomfortable or terrible it makes them feel insecure and increases anxiety. So you need to take your dog in an open space where they can feel relaxed.
Whatever you do remember, this problem does not occur because of dog mad or trying to get back at you. Always go with positive reinforcement option to overcome this problem.
Matthew Frank was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He was a reputed author of Pet Therapy Dogs and Pet Dog Cat.
Matthew is a regular author of this blog who is studying Veterinary medicine at Purdue University.