Not All Anxiety Is Separation Anxiety In Dogs
It is of vital importance to make a distinction between a dog being anxious over a separation from someone it wants to be with versus being distressed over having to face isolation, which is when the dog merely doesnt like to be alone. Separation problems are generally harder to fix than isolation problems.
A dog that simply doesnt like to be alone, may simply need to discover better things to do while alone. One that becomes anxious over being separated from its pack, however, is a different matter. In packs, the dog in charge is the one no one has to worry about. If your dog does not consider you to be the lead in your house, then it will play this role on you for the pack and it will grow anxious over your absence, potentially becoming very harmful just to get to you as soon as possible.
You need to deal with dog anxiety symptoms and demonstrate to your dog that you are the leader in the pack and that you need not be protected when stepping away from it. You do this through counter-conditioning: you turn the perceived negative of you leaving the house into a positive that the dog can experience only while youre gone. Below are 13 sure fire ways to eliminate all but the most severe cases of separation anxiety, by teaching your dog how to love being alone and apart from you.
How Do I Know If My Puppy Has Separation Anxiety
What Are the Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
What Can I Do About My Dogs Separation Anxiety
Its exhausting to come home to destruction and upsetting to see your puppy in such distress. Its even more devastating for your dog. Thankfully, there are several steps you can take to deal with SA. The Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic states the goal of treatment is to resolve the dogs underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. So some of the treatments are the same as the preventative measures and may already be part of your puppys routine. But consider all of them as you tackle SA. Look at the following methods of treatment:
1. Crate TrainingIt bears repeating that a crate is your dogs friend and your ally. Its an important training tool and the solution for many puppy challenges. It isnt cruel or unhealthy if used appropriately. Instead, it can provide your pup with a safe, quiet place to relax. The trick is to teach him to associate his crate with wonderful things like chew toys and food-releasing puzzle toys so hes happy to spend time inside. Some dogs feel safer and more comfortable in their crate when left alone. However, other dogs can panic. Watch your puppys behavior to see if he settles right down or if the anxiety symptoms ramp up. Remember, the goal is not to crate your dog all day, every day as a solution to his SA. Its to keep him and your house safe while you teach him to enjoy being alone.
Recommended Reading: Can Internal Medicine Doctors Prescribe Anxiety Medication
Does Leaving Toys & Food Down Help When I Leave
This may alleviate some dogs anxieties for a short while and keep them otherwise occupied as you exit. However, in general, for dogs that are truly anxious, food will not be touched until you get home. Your dog needs to be able to rest, not be entertained.
I advise against leaving toys or food down unattended as these can be a potential choking hazard.
My book, Why Does My Dog Do That? covers the Five To Thrive, which encompasses your dogs whole world with you. Connect with your dog naturally, understand how they tick and how they communicate and how to help them adjust in our fast-paced world.
Living And Managing Fear And Anxiety In Dogs
If your dog is taking medication, your vet will want to run occasional blood tests to make sure your dogs body is able to process and eliminate the medication properly.
If behavior modification doesnt work long-term, your vet may want to modify the approach. if left untreated, these disorders are likely to progress.
You will need to help your dog with behavior modification exercises and teach him to relax in a variety of environmental settings. encourage calm when your dog seems distressed. distract him and redirect his attention, following the plan that your veterinarian has outlined.
Fearful or anxious dogs may need to live in a protected environment with as few social stressors as possible. They dont do well in dog shows, dog parks, or large crowds.
and remember that not all dogs are calmer when they are in a cage some dogs panic when caged and will hurt themselves if they are forced to be confined. Absolutely avoid punishment for behavior related to fear, phobia, or anxiety.
Contact your veterinarian for a referral for professional help with behavior modification for your dog.
Don’t Miss: What Is The Fastest Acting Anxiety Medication
Tips To Help Dog Separation Anxiety
You come home from a long day at work to a spinning, jumping whirlwind of energy. Your dog follows you into your living room, where you find that he has chewed on your favorite pair of shoes. Your neighbor comes by to tell you that, once again, your dog has been driving the neighborhood crazy by howling and barking while you were away. Is this scenario familiar? Your dog may be suffering from dog separation anxiety.
In nature, dogs are almost never away from their pack. It is our job to help make this unnatural situation less stressful!
Where Do I Start
Before you can begin, be certain that your dog has a sufficiently enriched environment and a predictable daily routine . In addition, all rewards should be identified to ensure that they are only being given for those behaviors that you want to train and not for attention seeking or following. In other words, you should use the very rewards that your dog is seeking to teach independent behavior and to spend time relaxing away from you . Until you can get your dog to settle and relax while you are at home, he is unlikely to settle when you leave.
Read Also: How Do You Know If You Have Social Anxiety
Play Hide And Seek With Your Dog
This isnt just a kids game! Its a fun game to play with your dog with you being the ultimate reward. Ask your dog to sit and stay, while you take your time finding the perfect hiding spot. When youre ready, ask your dog to come and find you. Since dogs sense of smell is pretty incredible, it shouldnt take very long for them to find you. Reward them once they discover you. Over time, you can pick more challenging spots to hide in so they have to work extra hard to figure out where you are.
What Is The Difference Between Separation Anxiety And Normal Canine Behavior
Separation anxiety is a serious condition, and it goes beyond the occasional mournful whimper when you leave the house or the shredded sock waiting for you upon your return. Its also not the same as boredom, and unlike a little mischief when your dog is left alone, separation anxiety is the result of legitimate stress.
Before labeling destroyed cushions or potty accidents as SA, be sure its not a case of inadequate training. Does your dog truly understand good manners, even when youre not watching him? Is he 100% potty trained? One of the best ways to see whats really going on in your absence is to audio or videotape your dogs behavior while youre away.
You May Like: Does Anxiety Medication Actually Work
Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
If your dog is anxious or unsettled about being left at home alone you may see the following:
- Your dog becomes distressed as soon as you leave. The first 15 minutes are the worst, during which time your dog becomes extremely upset. All the physiological signs of fear may be present an increase in heart and breathing rate, panting, salivating, increased activity and, sometimes, a need to go to the toilet. Your dog may try to follow you as you leave, scratching at doors, chewing at doorframes, scratching at carpets or jumping up at windowsills to look for a way out. Alternatively your dog may bark, whine or howl to try and persuade you to come back.
- After this frantic period, your dog may settle down to chew something that you have recently touched that still carries your scent. Dogs will often chew scented items into small pieces and curl up in the debris so that your dog forms a barrier of your scent around them for security.
- On your return, your dog may appear elated and may become very excitable. They may be wet, either from salivating or excessively drinking due to stress.
- When you are home, your dog may attempt to follow you wherever you go in the house. They may begin to display anxious behaviours when they see you preparing to leave the house .
How To Treat Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Even in cases of medically induced separation anxiety, however, behavior modification is critical for successful treatment. Consulting a trainer or a behavioral specialist recommended by your veterinarian can help you create a plan for treating your dogs condition. Common steps include increasing exercise and play, encouraging independence, ignoring attention-seeking behaviors and encouraging calm behaviors, adjusting arrival and departure habits to reduce stress, and ceasing punishment, as punishment is ineffective and only increases your dogs stress levels.
Treating separation anxiety takes time, and some dogs never learn to reliably comfort themselves. During the training process, consider using alternative measures like pet sitters, doggy daycare centers, or making arrangements to take your dog with you whenever possible.
Read Also: Does My Cat Have Anxiety
What Can Be Done To Retrain The Dog To Reduce The Dependence And Following
The most important aspect of retraining is to teach your dog to be independent and relaxed in your presence. Only when your dog will stay in his bed or relaxation area, rather than constantly following you around, will you be ready to begin mock or graduated planned departures.
“… teach the dog to be independent and relaxed in your presence.”
Attention-getting behaviors must not pay off. Any attempts at attention must be ignored. On the other hand, lying quietly away from you should be rewarded. Teach your dog that it is the quiet behavior that will receive attention, and not following you around, or demanding attention. Teach your dog to relax in his quiet area and to accept lengthy periods of inattention when you are home. You may have to begin with shorter sessions of inattention and gradually shape longer sessions. Training can progress much quicker if your dog learns the down stay and mat exercises on command . Be sure to schedule attention, interaction and play sessions and develop a routine while you are at home, and follow these with gradually longer sessions of inattention to try and approximate your times of departure. Your dog should get used to this routine so that you can depart while he is calm.
How Long Does It Take
Its all dependant on how committed you are to take it slow, how traumatised your dog is and where you incorporate the Five To Thrive. It helps if you know how to talk to your dog too.
Always have a camera up so you can gauge progress. However, youll know by the behaviour of your dog whether youre trying to fast track. Hyper behavior on return is an indication youve may have been out too long.
Read Also: What To Take For Stress And Anxiety
Can Crate Training Help With Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Generally, a confined dog will be more anxious. A crate with an open door in a smaller back room is ideal. Dogs can get caught in crate wire, making it dangerous for their well-being. You should not leave your dog until you know they can cope alone. Slowly but surely, you can gradually increase the time spent doing this.
What Can I Do If My Dog Is Anxious When Im Not At Home
Dogs are highly social animals who generally prefer to live in groups. Many dogs can become anxious when separated from their human family. Anxiety is characterised by signs of distress when affected animals are separated from an owner or family group to who the animal is attached. Behavioural responses can include toileting in the house, destructiveness, excessive barking, digging or pacing and attempting to escape, among other distress signs.
The goal of management and treatment is to teach the dog how to be calm and relaxed when the person to whom the dog is attached is absent. It involves changes in pet-owner interactions, changes in leaving and returning routines, decreasing the anxiety associated with owner departure, teaching the pet how to be left alone and other environmental changes and management.
Owners should consult with their veterinarian for advice. They can either help you directly or they may offer referral to a behavioural specialist who uses humane reward-based training.
Don’t Miss: Can Muscle Relaxers Help With Anxiety
Where To Begin: Treating Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Are you worried about leaving your dog alone? Dont heed the myths and confusion shared in the popular press and social media. Contact a qualified dog professional and get started. Weve been here all along and were here for you now. You can get through this and your dog can, too.
Malena DeMartini-Price is renowned in the dog training world for her expertise in dog separation anxiety issues. She is the author of the books Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs, as well as Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Next-Generation Treatment Protocols and Practices.
Maia Huff-Owen is a KPA-CTP and a CSAT. She is also an instructor for Malena DeMartinis Separation Anxiety Certification Program, a 14-week, intensive course that teaches dog trainers how to work successfully with separation anxiety cases. See Resources, page 24, for contact information.
Signs & Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
The signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs are mostly behavioral and usually occur when dogs are left alone. You may notice:
Excessive panting and salivation
Urination or defecation around the house
Dogs with tend to vocalize when they are left alone by barking, whining, or howling. Panting and salivation are also common. These signs can begin before separation if dogs learn to anticipate their owners departure.
Vocalization can cause owners trouble with neighbors or landlords, and accidents within the house, as well as destructive behaviors like chewing on door frames, can cause lasting property damage. Some destructive behavior can even lead to veterinary emergencies. Consuming foreign bodies like clothing, coth, or garbage may require surgical intervention, adding to dog and owner stress. Dogs with separation anxiety may also chew, bite, or lick at themselves excessively, which can lead to infection.
Behavioral signs of separation anxiety in dogs often cause problems for owners, and can even put dogs themselves at risk. Property damage and physical harm, as well as tarnished relations with neighbors and property owners can also occur.
Recommended Reading: How To Make Anxiety Go Away Forever
What Is Separation Anxiety
While we may consider separation anxiety to be a simple issue, its a complex problem that often causes pet parents to give up their dogs. Theres no single, specific cause for separation anxiety, but it may be triggered by a variety of life changes, such as:
- Death of a family member.
- Moving from one home to another.
- Being adopted from a shelter to a forever home.
- Change in ownership.
- Additions to the family, like new pets or a new baby.
- Changes in daily routine.
- Being left alone when your pup is used to company.
Separation anxiety is a common mental health problem in dogs, with between 13% and 18% of dogs exhibiting symptoms. Because dogs are pack animals, theyre genetically hardwired to remain with their pack, so they may become distressed when their human family members leave the house. Signs of separation anxiety include:
- Indoor accidents, even if your pup is housebroken.
- Excessive panting.
- Barking and crying.
- Destructive behaviors.
Signs of separation anxiety in puppies resemble separation anxiety in adult dogs, though your puppy may be more inclined to urinate and defecate in the home. Bear in mind that your little pooch isnt trying to be naughty. Hes scared, and his small bladder size makes it difficult for him to control the urge to go in the house.
Leave A ‘special’ Toy
Always make sure that your dog has exciting things to do when you’re not with them. You can give your dog a long-lasting chew such as a stuffed ‘kong’ toy, a meat-flavoured chew or a treat ball when you plan to go out.
Make sure that they enjoy using it when you’re there. If your dog then doesn’t use it when you’re away, this may be a sign that your dog is worried when you’re out.
Top tip: Remember to take any food treats out of your pet’s daily food allowance to avoid overfeeding.
Recommended Reading: How To Cope With Grief And Anxiety