One of the most common concerns of dog owners is that their pets have separation anxiety. As anyone who has dealt with this knows, a dog with separation anxiety can be disruptive and destructive. Furthermore, it is incredibly stressful for him. As a matter of fact, separation anxiety accounts for 20% to 40% of all dog behavior cases seen by experts in the US. Here are some tips on how to help a dog with separation anxiety, its causes and symptoms.
The causes of separation anxiety in dogs
Separation anxiety occurs when your dog is separated from you or other people in your household to whom he is attached. It typically occurs when he is left alone and can’t find any of the people he knows. Fear and anxiety set in and destructive and other negative behaviors are a result.
Furthermore, their anxiety could be triggered by a life event for you such as a new job. Other things may have also laid the groundwork. For example, genetics or a history of early abandonment could be the culprits.
According to Cesarsway.com, separation anxiety is often unknowingly encouraged by dog owners. For example, when we make a big fuss as we leave or come home we are rewarding our dog’s concern for our absence and therefore causing more stress every time we leave.
Symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs
Sometimes your dog will show symptoms mistakenly taken for separation anxiety. These symptoms might be a sign of a medical problem or another behavioral issue. It’s important to understand the true symptoms of separation anxiety and those that are a false alarm. Simulated separation anxiety might be an attention-getting ploy by your dog. This kind of behavior results from of a lack of training or leadership qualities in the dog’s owner. Read here for more information on dog training at home.
Luckily, simulated separation anxiety is easily corrected. Just stop paying attention to his dramatics and he will see that he won’t be rewarded for negative behavior.
First, let’s discuss the true symptoms and then those that may be a false alarm.
- Urinating or defecating
- Constant barking or howling
- Excessive panting and salivation
- Pacing & restlessness
- Scratching at doors and windows
- Jumping through windows
- Property destruction
- Eating through walls
- Chewing things
- Ignoring food
- Following you around when you come home
- Excited behavior when you come home
- Hiding or crying when you are about to leave
- Escaping a crate
- Eating their own feces
Simulated separation anxiety:
- Incontinence: This issue may be a sign of kidney disease, diabetes and many other illnesses.
- Excessive salivation, lack of appetite, pooping/peeing and even anxiety could be caused by medications.
- Urine marking is common with dogs who are not spayed or neutered.
- Youthful destruction if your dog is a puppy.
- Your dog could act out by chewing and destroying things if he is bored.
Are there breeds who are more susceptible to separation anxiety?
As a matter of fact there are breeds who are more likely to have separation anxiety. These are:
- Australian Shepherd
- Bichon Frise
- Border Collies
- Cocker Spaniels
- German Shepherd
- King Charles Spaniel
- Labrador Retriever
- Toy breeds
How do I help my dog?
According to professional dog trainer Shoshi Parks, Ph.D of Modern Hound in San Francisco, you must first find your dog’s threshold. Here’s what you do:
First set up a camera in your house. You can get a free app like Skype, Zoom or Face Time to watch your dog’s behavior on your smartphone or tablet.
Then, start a stopwatch as you close the door and walk far enough that he no longer sees you.
Next, watch for behaviors such as circling, pacing, whining, barking, digging, jumping on the door and other indications of anxiety.
Continue to watch for 5 to 10 minutes so you have a good idea of the range of his anxiety behaviors. Be sure to take notes.
The length of time it takes for the behaviors to start is your dog’s threshold.
So, now that you know the threshold you can begin the process of desensitizing him to longer and longer absences. For example:
For up to 30 minutes practice going to the door and stepping outside the house for varying periods of time. Pause for a moment between each step and do something ordinary like watching TV or washing a dish.
During these pauses you don’t have to ignore him but don’t give him too much love either.
Add a new cue every other day or until you have identified the trigger.
What you are aiming for is to desensitize him to all the little things you do before you leave. These are known as pre-departure cues and they include putting on your shoes, picking up your keys and locking the door. Keep in mind that some of these cues will frighten your dog more than others.
Move slowly in the desensitizing process. You want to move at your dog’s pace. You are looking for a trend of longer absences without anxiety. It’s not a straight line.
Furthermore, make sure you incorporate breaks into this kind of training. Take at least one day off per week. Also, don’t train for more than 30 minutes a day. Train at different times during the day. This way your dog will learn to recognize that the same principles always apply. Get everyone in the household involved in the training if you can.
Other tips to stop separation anxiety in dogs
These tips on how to treat separation anxiety in dogs are brought to you by Brad Wells, writer for Petcube.com. You might try some or all of these when dealing with separation anxiety in dogs:
1. Change your “Going Away” signals. For example, put on your coat but don’t leave for 15 minutes or put your keys in a different location. You want to break your dog’s association of these actions with your leaving so they won’t cause separation anxiety.
2. Give him a treat or toy to play with when you leave.
3.Downplay hellos and goodbyes. That is to say, don’t be emotional or overly excited when you leave or return home. Just calmly say goodbye and then leave. When you return, don’t be too affectionate until he settles down.
4. Exercise him before you leave. This will help divert his attention to food and sleep.
5. Train him to be alone when you are home. Tell him to stay in a certain place in the house while you go to a different room. You may need to do this in gradual time increments if your dog has severe anxiety.
6. Create a personal space for your dog. Instead of sleeping with your dog give them a separate place (I know, many of us like our dog to be with us when we are in bed!) Set him up with a dog bed and give him calming treats. This will teach him to be independent of you.
7. Leave comfort items and background music on when you leave the house. Nature sounds might be better than say, death metal! Additionally, hide treats around the house to keep him occupied. Also, remove stress factors such as collars, chains or crates if he doesn’t like these.
8. You should limit the amount of time that you are gone. 8 hours may be the limit. If possible, bring your work home so you don’t stay at the office too long. Structure any day trips you take to be as short as possible.
Anti-anxiety medicines and products
Also Consider Adaptil Spray
You can try these as well:
Dog anxiety jackets
We hope you have enjoyed these tips on how to help a dog with separation anxiety. Curing separation anxiety in dogs can be a challenge. Patience is key here. However, in some cases you may need a professional. Go to www.modernhoundsf.com for more information.
We love comments so please leave yours. Be sure to tell us about any experiences you and your dog have had with separation anxiety.