SEPARATION ANXIETY IN DOGS

One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are aggressive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape. Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be polite and have house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems go along with other behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety when his pet parents prepare to leave the house, they don’t find evidence that the dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t aware of his toys to chew. Instead, they gave indications that the dog has separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become sad because of separation from their primary caregivers, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury, destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.


Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety become agitated when their primary caregivers prepare to leave. Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their guardians’ getting ready to leave. Some try to prevent their primary caregivers from leaving. Usually, right after a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety, the dog will start howling and displaying other distress behaviors within a short time after being left alone—often within minutes. When the guardian returns home, the dog acts as they were alone for so long

When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy his company, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog prepare for the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.



Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

The following is a list of symptoms that may indicate separation anxiety:


Urinating and Defecating

Some dogs urinate when left alone or separated from their primary caregivers. If a dog urinates in the presence of his primary caregivers, his house soiling probably isn’t caused by separation anxiety.


Barking and Howling

A dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when separated from his primary caregivers. This kind of barking or howling is consistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone.


Chewing, Digging, and Destruction

Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, doors, or window sills, dig at doors and doorways or destroy household objects when left alone or separated from their primary caregivers. These behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws, and damaged nails. If a dog’s chewing, digging, and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they usually occur in his guardian’s absence.


Escaping

A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where he’s confined when he’s left alone or separated from his primary caregivers. The dog might attempt to dig and chew through doors or windows, which could result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws, and damaged nails. If the dog’s escape behavior is caused by separation anxiety, it occurs when his guardian is absent.



Why Do Some Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?

There is no proper evidence showing exactly why dogs develop separation anxiety. However, because far more dogs who have been adopted from shelters have this behavior problem than those kept by a single family since puppyhood, it is believed that the loss of an important person or group of people in a dog’s life can lead to separation anxiety. Other less dramatic changes can also trigger separation anxiety. The following is a list of situations that have been associated with the development of separation anxiety.


Change of Guardian or Family

Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter, or given to a new family while adjusting to old environment can trigger the development of separation anxiety.


Change in Schedule

An abrupt change in daily schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone can trigger the development of separation anxiety. For example, if a dog’s primary caregiver works from home and spends all day with his dog but then gets a new job that requires him to leave his dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog might develop separation anxiety because he is unable to adapt change.


Change in Residence

Moving to a new environment can trigger the development of separation anxiety.


Change in Household Membership

The sudden absence of a resident family member, either due to death or moving away, can trigger separation anxiety



So what to do if you suspect your dog is experiencing separation anxiety?

When separation anxiety occurs, the two most important things that your dog needs are time & distance.

Book an appointment if you feel fear is an extreme or chronic issue for your dog and is interfering with their quality of life.


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