Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Many people were working from home during the COVID-19 Pandemic. They got themselves a puppy or dog to keep them company. Now that the worst part of the Pandemic is over a lot of these people have to go back to work fulltime. Their puppies have to stay home alone.
I was lucky, when I was still in the workforce I was able to bring our two dogs to work. Not everybody can do this. So many of you are dealing with your dogs displaying separation anxiety. Here we will try to give you ideas on how to help you and your puppy with this problem.
What Is It, Exactly?
Separation anxiety occurs when a dog that is too devoted to its owner becomes very worried when left alone. It's not just a little whimpering before you go or a little trouble while you're away. It's a dangerous issue that's one of the leading causes of dog owners being dissatisfied and giving up their pets. However, there are many things you may do to assist. First, figure out why your dog is acting this way:
- Being alone for the first time when they are used to being surrounded by others
- Transfer of ownership
- Transition from a shelter to a home
- Alteration in family routine or schedule
- Death of a family member
Separation Anxiety Symptoms
When a dog is alone, they display a lot of worries. They may:
- Excessively bark, howl, growl, or whine
- Have indoor “accidents” despite being housebroken
- Chew things up, dig holes, or claw at windows and doors
- Drool, pant, or salivate excessively
- Pace, typically in an obsessive rhythm
- Attempt to escape
While you're nearby, they're unlikely to perform any of these activities to their full extent. A typical dog may perform some of these actions every now and again, but a dog suffering from separation anxiety will do them practically all of the time.
How To Deal With It
First, see your veterinarian in order to rule out any medical issues. Infections, hormone disorders, and other health issues might lead dogs to have accidents in the home. It might also be the result of incomplete housebreaking. Additionally, certain drugs have the potential to induce mishaps. Whether your dog takes any medications, check with your veterinarian to see if they are at fault.
If The Problem Is Minor…
- When you leave the house, give your dog a special treat (like a puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter). Give them this reward just while you're away, and then take it away when you return.
- Make your arrivals and departures low-key, with few greetings. For the first several minutes after you arrive home, ignore your dog.
- Leave some recently worn garments that smell like you out on the counter.
- Consider feeding your pet natural soothing remedies that are available over-the-counter.
If The Situation Is More Serious…
Even the most delicious goodies will not be enough to divert a dog with extreme anxiety. You'll have to gradually acclimate them to your absence.
When they perceive indicators that you're ready to leave, such as putting on your shoes or picking up your keys, they may get worried. So go ahead and do those things, but don't leave. Put your shoes on and then take a seat at the table. Pick up your keys and turn on the television.
Repeat this process many times throughout the day. You may gradually fade away after your dog begins to feel less nervous about it. Simply go around to the opposite side of the door. Request that your dog remains then shut an inside door between you. After a few seconds, reenter the room but be lowkeyed with your dog.
Increase the length of time you're gone gradually. Put your shoes on and grab your keys. Request that your dog remain in the room while you go into another. Increase the length of time you're gone as they become acclimated to the “stay game.”
Then exit by an exterior door that isn't the same one you use every day. Before you depart, make sure your dog is comfortable. You are the only one who can determine if your dog is ready to be left alone for extended periods of time.
Things should not be rushed. When you've progressed to 10 seconds or so apart, give them a huge reward. When you leave and when you return, have a cool demeanour. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend outside until you can leave the home for a few minutes. Then go missing for larger and longer lengths of time.
For All Canines
Ensure that your pet receives enough activity on a daily basis. When you leave, a weary, happy dog will be less worried. It's also critical that you keep your pet's mind stimulated.
Play fetch and training games. Use puzzles that are interactive. They should exercise both their minds and their bodies. While you're gone, this will keep them occupied, happy, and too weary to be concerned.
When pet owners leave their dogs alone, one of the most frequent complaints is that they are disruptive or destructive. Urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig, or attempt to flee with their dogs.
These issues are frequent signs that a dog needs to be taught proper house manners, but they may also be signs of unhappiness.
When a dog's troubles are accompanied by additional distress behaviours, such as drooling and displaying worry when his pet parents prepare to leave the home, it isn't proof that the dog isn't house trained or doesn't recognize which toys are his to chew.
Instead, these are signs of separation anxiety in the dog. Separation anxiety is produced when dogs are separated from their guardians, or persons to whom they are devoted. Dogs with separation anxiety often seek to flee, which may result in self-injury and property damage, particularly at escape points such as windows and doors.
When their guardians prepare to depart, some dogs with separation anxiety get nervous. Others seem nervous or melancholy before or after their guardians leave, or while they aren't around. Some people attempt to keep their guardians from departing.
Typically, once a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety alone for a short period of time—often minutes—the dog may begin barking and showing other distress symptoms. When the guardian arrives home, the dog behaves as if he hasn't seen his mother or father in years!
When it comes to treating a dog with separation anxiety, the objective is to train him to appreciate, or at the very least accept, being left alone. This is achieved by arranging things in such a way that the dog encounters the scenario that causes him to worry, namely being alone, without dread or anxiety.
Crate Training Your Puppy
It will help you and your puppy (or dog) if you crate train them. This way your puppy loves its crate and feels safe and cozy in it. We started crate training Sadie when she was still young. Now she sleeps half the night with me and when my husband comes to bed she will go into her crate.
In the morning I will make coffee and prepare her food before I let her out of her crate. She stays relaxed and waits for me to open the door. I also trained her to stay in her crate until I release her. That works very well.
Being in their crate will keep your dog safe when they are forced to be home alone. This really worked for us. A couple of weeks ago I had to go for eye surgery. My husband had to drive me and Sadie had to stay at home.
We put her into her crate and gave her a few of her favourite treats. When we came home we made sure not to make a big fuss about it. This worked really well. Now we can easily crate her for a couple of hours and leave if we have to.
Fortunately for Sadie, I work from home fulltime. So I am home most of the time or almost always. I still leave her in the house sometimes and I go outside. This way she is used to me not always being home.
Common Separation Anxiety Symptoms
A list of symptoms that may suggest separation anxiety is as follows:
Defecating And Urinating
When left alone or removed from their guardians, some dogs urinate or defecate. House soiling is unlikely to be caused by separation anxiety if a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his guardian.
Howling And Barking
When left alone or separated from his guardian, a dog with separation anxiety may yelp or howl. This kind of barking or wailing is persistent and seems to be unaffected by anything other than being left alone.
Chewing, Digging, And Destruction
When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs with separation anxiety chew on items, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and gateways, or damage household belongings.
Self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scratched paws, and damaged nails, may occur as a consequence of these actions. If a dog's chewing, digging, and damage are driven by separation anxiety, they normally don't happen in the company of his guardian.
When left alone or separated from his guardian, a dog with separation anxiety may attempt to escape from an area where he is restricted. The dog may try to dig and gnaw its way through doors or windows, resulting in self-injury such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws, and torn nails. When his guardian is there, the dog's escape habit is not triggered by separation anxiety.
When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs walk or trot along a set route in a predictable way. Some pacing dogs go back and forth in straight lines, while others move in circular patterns. While a dog's pacing habit is triggered by separation anxiety, it seldom happens when his guardian is there.
Some dogs defecate and then swallow all or part of their feces when left alone or away from their guardians. If a dog consumes feces due to separation anxiety, he most likely does not do it in the company of his owner.
What Causes Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
There is no solid evidence as to why dogs suffer from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is thought to be caused by the loss of an important person or group of people in a dog's life since considerably more dogs acquired from shelters exhibit this behaviour issue than those raised by a single household from puppyhood.
Other, less dramatic alterations may also be responsible for the disorder's onset. The following is a list of circumstances that have been linked to the onset of separation anxiety.
Change Of Guardianship Or Change Of Family
Separation anxiety may be triggered by being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter, or delivered to a new guardian or family.
Changes To The Schedule
Separation anxiety may be triggered by a sudden shift in a dog's routine in terms of when or how long he or she is left alone. If a dog's guardian works from home and spends the whole day with his dog, but later takes a new job that forces him to leave his dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog may develop separation anxiety.
Change Of Address
Separation anxiety might occur as a result of moving to a new location.
Changes In Family Structure
Separation anxiety may be triggered by the abrupt absence of a resident family member, whether due to death or relocation.
First, Rule Out Any Medical Issues
Medical Issues can cause incontinence. Incontinence, a medical ailment in which a dog “leaks” or empty his bladder, is the cause of some dogs' home soiling. Dogs with incontinence issues often seem to be oblivious to the fact that they have soiled. They have a habit of avoiding peeing when sleeping.
Urinary incontinence in dogs may be caused by a variety of medical conditions, including a urinary tract infection, an aging sphincter, hormone-related disorders after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, renal illness, and Cushing's disease, neurological problems, and genital abnormalities. Please with your dog's veterinarian to rule out medical concerns before trying behaviour modification for separation anxiety.
A variety of drugs might lead to frequent urine and home soiling. If your dog is on any drugs, speak with his veterinarian to see if they might be contributing to his house-soiling issues.
Other Behavior Issues To Eliminate
It might be difficult to tell if a dog suffers from separation anxiety or not. Similar symptoms might be caused by a variety of typical behavioural issues. It's vital to rule out the following behaviour issues before deciding that your dog has separation anxiety:
Urination: Submissive Or Excitation Urination
During greetings, play, physical contact, or when reprimanded or punished, some dogs may urinate. During encounters, such dogs often adopt submissive postures, such as lowering the tail, flattening the ears against the head, kneeling or rolling over, and exposing the belly.
House Training Isn't Complete
A dog that urinates in the home on occasion may not be totally housebroken. His house training may have been inconsistent, or it may have included punishment, making him fearful of elimination when his owner is there.
Some dogs pee in the home to indicate their territory. A dog's fragrance is left on vertical surfaces by urinating in little quantities. Scent-marking dogs, both male and female, elevate one leg to urinate.
Destruction By Juveniles
While their guardians are at home as well as while they are away, many young dogs engage in destructive gnawing or digging. For additional information on these issues, please check our article Destructive Chewing.
Dogs need mental stimulation, and when left alone, they may become unruly because they are bored and seeking for anything to do. Typically, these dogs do not seem to be worried.
Howling Or Excessive Barking
Some dogs scream or howl in reaction to a variety of environmental cues, such as unusual sights and noises. When their guardians are at home as well as when they are gone, they generally make noise. Please visit our articles Barking and Howling for additional information on this kind of issue.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Anxious About Being Separated
Mild Separation Anxiety Treatment
If your dog suffers from minor separation anxiety, counterconditioning may help to alleviate or eliminate the issue.
Counterconditioning is a therapeutic method that replaces a scared, nervous, or aggressive response in an animal with a pleasurable, relaxed one. It works by connecting the presence or sight of a feared or despised person, animal, location, item, or circumstance with something truly pleasant, something the dog enjoys. Over time, the dog realizes that anything he is afraid of is simply a sign of wonderful things to come.
Counterconditioning focuses on building a link between being alone and nice things, such as tasty food, in dogs with separation anxiety. To foster this kind of bond, give your dog a puzzle toy loaded with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to complete every time you leave the home.
Try stuffing a KONG® with something delicious like dog-safe peanut butter. I use our dog's home made raw food to stuff the KONG. Sometimes I even freeze it so your dog has to work even harder to get all of the food out.
When you get home, be sure to take away these special toys and the high-value meals inside so your dog only has access to them and the high-value foods when he's alone. All of your dog's daily meals may be fed to him in customized toys.
For example, every morning before heading to work, you may give your dog a KONG or two loaded with his meal and some yummy goodies. However, keep in mind that this method will only work for minor instances of separation anxiety since severely worried dogs will frequently refuse to eat when their guardians aren't there.
Separation Anxiety Treatment For Moderate To Severe
Separation anxiety in moderate or severe instances needs a more involved desensitization and counterconditioning approach. In these situations, it's critical to gradually adapt a dog to being alone by beginning with numerous brief separations that don't cause distress and progressively increasing the separation time over many weeks of daily sessions.
A desensitization and counterconditioning program is briefly described in the stages below. Please bear in mind that this is just a brief overview.
Desensitization and counterconditioning are complicated procedures that might be difficult to execute. Fear must be avoided at all costs, otherwise, the process may backfire and the dog will become even more fearful.
Desensitization and counterconditioning need the supervision of a qualified and experienced expert since therapy must advance and vary in accordance with the pet's responses, which may be difficult to read and comprehend.
Consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviourist for assistance in developing and implementing a desensitization and counterconditioning strategy (Dip ACVB).
If you can't locate a behaviourist, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) may be able to assist you, but be sure the trainer is certified to do so. Determine if she or he has had training and experience in the use of desensitization and counterconditioning to treat fear, although this isn't a requirement for CPDT certification.
I trust you enjoyed this article on Separation Anxiety In Dogs. Please stay tuned for more blog posts to come shortly. Take care!
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