What To Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Treatment for Moderate to Severe Separation AnxietyModerate or severe cases of separation anxiety require a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program. In these cases, its crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions.
The following steps briefly describe a desensitization and counterconditioning program. Please keep in mind that this is a short, general explanation.
Step One: Predeparture CuesAs mentioned above, some dogs begin to feel anxious while their guardians get ready to leave. For example, a dog might start to pace, pant and whine when he notices his guardian applying makeup, putting on shoes and a coat, and then picking up a bag or car keys. Guardians of dogs who become upset during predeparture rituals are unable to leaveeven for just few secondswithout triggering their dogs extreme anxiety. Your dog may see telltale cues that youre leaving and get so anxious about being left alone that he cant control himself and forgets that youll come back.
Medications Might HelpAlways consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist before giving your dog any type of medication for a behavior problem.
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How To Stop Separation Anxiety In Dogs
As a pet parent, your goal is to find the best calming anxiety treatments for your pet. Treating separation anxiety in dogs does not require a medical professional, and you can succeed on your own with persistent work and dedication. Dog anxiety treatment includes behavioral changes that will help your pup learn that being alone is not scary. Here is a list of 10 dog calming treatments:
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Q: I Have A Social Cat Who Enjoys Company But I Travel Often And He Becomes Agitated In My Absence I Have Someone Who Checks In On Him Regularly When Im Away But This Doesnt Seem To Help What Can I Do To Lessen His Stress
A: Its a myth that cats are essentially independent. Felines, especially those highly bonded to their people, may become stressed when left alone, especially for long periods of time. Some felines may be OK with shorter daily periods of separation but may have trouble with longer absences.
Separation distress can lead to a variety of unwanted behaviors, including defecating and urinating outside of the litterbox , excessive vocalization, appetite loss, throwing up, destructive clawing and excessive self-grooming.
Common Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety
The following is a list of symptoms that may indicate separation anxiety:
Urinating and DefecatingSome dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their guardians. If a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his guardian, his house soiling probably isnt caused by separation anxiety.
Barking and HowlingA dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when separated from his guardian. This kind of barking or howling is persistent and doesnt seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone.
Chewing, Digging and DestructionSome dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects when left alone or separated from their guardians. These behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws and damaged nails. If a dogs chewing, digging and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they dont usually occur in his guardians presence.
EscapingA dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where hes confined when hes left alone or separated from his guardian. 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 dogs escape behavior is caused by separation anxiety, it doesnt occur when his guardian is present.
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Dealing With Parental Separation Anxiety
When parents are separated from their children, they can often experience negative emotions such as worry and anxiety. A little bit of anxiety surrounding separation is also considered developmentally normal, as it prompts parents to continue the secure attachment bond that has been formed from early infancy.
As children progress into adolescence, they become more independent and naturally spend more time with their peers and away from parents. Adolescents are working toward becoming more independent in their everyday lives, engaging in a process called .
Parents often need support to help work through their emotions when separating from their children. Identifying the root cause of their apprehensions surrounding separating from their children is key in helping to ease the anxiety.
One strategy that might be useful is to start a thought diary. This article on using a thought diary in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy helps break down how a thought diary can be helpful in addressing intrusive thoughts and feelings that cause anxiety.
How Do I Progress To Leaving The House
During âmockâ or graduated departures, your dog should be exercised, given a short training session, and taken to her bed or mat to relax. Give the âdown-stayâ command, a few of the novel toys and treats, and then depart while your dog is distracted and relaxed.
The first few mock-departures should be identical to the training exercises above, but instead of leaving the room for a few minutes while your dog is calm and distracted, you will begin to leave the home. The first few departures should be just long enough to leave and return without any signs of anxiety or destructiveness. This might last from a few seconds to a couple of minutes the hardest part and most critical part may be to merely get out the door without your dog becoming anxious. Gradually but randomly increase the time. Your dog must always be relaxed when you begin. Departures must be as much like real departures as possible and include other activities associated with departure such as opening and closing the car door and returning, turning on and off the car engine and returning, or pulling the car out of the driveway and returning. The goal is for your dog to learn that departures are short and that you return quickly, so you must only increase the time you are gone if the dog remains relaxed when you leave the house. The increase in time must be random and slowly increased. You cannot suddenly go from a 5-minute departure to a 30-minute one or your dog may become anxious.
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What Is The Difference Between Separation Anxiety And Normal Canine Behavior
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.
Characteristics Of Separation Anxiety
These are some of the characteristics of separation anxiety, according to Klemanski:
- It is typically recurrent: As a disorder, separation anxiety is typically recurrent and manifests as excessive distress when anticipating or experiencing separation. It can cause persistent and excessive worry about losing someone through harm, illness, injury, accident, abandonment, etc.
- It functions on a spectrum: Separation anxiety functions on a spectrum in the sense that some may have some mild symptoms of it whereas others might experience a great deal of anxiety and distress.
- It is more common in children: Separation anxiety disorder is more common in children, but adolescents and adults may also experience it when they are away from children, partners, or other family members. Mental healthcare providers typically look for signs that the anxiety is not in accordance with ones development. For example, they might expect a toddler to exhibit some signs of separation anxiety, but they would not expect to see many of these signs in an adolescent or older adult without good reason.
Separation anxiety most often affects those who exhibit insecure attachment style, says Hanson.
These are some of the causes of separation anxiety, according to Klemanski:
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Common Causes Of Separation Anxiety Disorder
Common causes of separation anxiety disorder in children include:
Change in environment. Changes in surroundings, such as a new house, school, or day care situation, can trigger separation anxiety disorder.
Stress. Stressful situations like switching schools, divorce, or the loss of a loved oneincluding a petcan trigger separation anxiety problems.
Insecure attachment. The attachment bond is the emotional connection formed between an infant and their primary caretaker. While a secure attachment bond ensures that your child will feel secure, understood and calm enough for optimal development, an insecure attachment bond can contribute to childhood problems such as separation anxiety.
An overprotective parent. In some cases, separation anxiety disorder may be the manifestation of your own stress or anxiety. Parents and children can feed one anothers anxieties.
If it seems like your childs separation anxiety disorder happened overnight, the cause might be something related to a traumatic experience rather than separation anxiety. Although these two conditions can share symptoms, they are treated differently. By understanding the effects of traumatic stress on children, you can help your child benefit from the most fitting treatment.
Dont Make A Big Fuss About Leaving
One big mistake dog owners make is giving their dog goodbye hugs and kisses at the door. This is a no-no. By doing so, youre making your dog realize that being nervous is tolerated and rewarded. After showering them with love, youll suddenly go away and leave them alone. Thats a recipe for separation anxiety.
You should practice no eye contact, no-touch, and no-touch policy. Once your dog is eating or sleeping, exit quietly. Theres no need for hugs and kisses that will only trigger your dogs nervousness.
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Downplay Goodbyes And Hellos
Dont get emotional when leaving your dog and overexcited when you come back. By paying too much attention to your departure and return, you risk reinforcing the dogs fear of your absence. Calmly say goodbye and leave. When you come back, quietly say hello and don’t get too affectionate until your dog has calmed down.
If The Problem Is More Serious
A dog with severe anxiety won’t be distracted by even the tastiest treats. You’ll need to slowly get them used to your absence.
They may start to get nervous when they see signs you’re about to leave, like putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. So do those things, but then don’t leave. Put on your shoes and then sit down at the table. Pick up your keys and watch TV. Do this over and over many times a day.
When your dog starts to feel less anxious about that, you can slowly start to disappear. First just go on the other side of the door. Ask your dog to stay, then close an inside door between you. Reappear after a few seconds. Slowly increase the amount of time you’re gone. Put on your shoes and pick up your keys. Ask your dog to stay while you go into another room.
As they get more used to the “stay game,” increase the amount of time you’re gone. Then use an outside door, but not the same one you go out every day. Make sure your dog is relaxed before you leave.
Only you can tell if your dog is ready to be left alone for longer periods. Don’t rush things. Give them a stuffed treat when you’ve built up to 10 seconds or so apart. Always act calm when you leave and when you return.
Gradually build up the time until you can leave the house for a few minutes. Then stay away for longer and longer periods.
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Comfort Place And Attention
Your dog needs to have a place to go when you leave where she feels safe and secure. Start teaching her a go to your bed command and praise and reward her when she does. Give her lots of attention and love when she is lying in her bed. In fact, you should make this the only place where she gets this kind of attention . She will soon find it very reassuring to be in her bed.
Resist giving your dog attention whenever she demands it. Ignore her when she comes to you and nudges your hand to be petted. Give her attention on your terms, not hers.
Exercise Your Dog Before Departure
A tired dog is a calm dog. Exercising at least 30 minutes before departure will relax your dog and divert its attention to food and sleep.
Below is a useful video guide for the best workouts you and your dog can do together:
If you dont have time to go outside, watch this video for tips on how to exercise your dog inside the house:
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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.