What is Separation Anxiety?
There’s really no feeling like being greeted by your pup(s) after a long day at work. It’s not uncommon (or unwanted) for doggos to go absolutely bonkers when you arrive home. But, there can be problematic (and sometimes dangerous) flip-side to your welcoming parties. If your dog is experiencing intense emotional distress when you leave the home, chances are it’s a form of separation anxiety in dogs. The good news, though, is that it’s quite common and typically very fixable.
Causes of Separation Anxiety In Dogs.
Separation anxiety is caused by hyper-attached dogs being left alone for long periods of time. It’s nothing hostile — far from it, in fact! Your pup misses you! It affects some dogs more than others and is often triggered by major changes in a dog’s life. A few of those events may be:
- Recent re-homing
- Being left alone when accustomed to constant company
- Deaths in the family (including other pets)
- Significant changes in family structure
Signs of Separation Anxiety In Dogs.
Separation anxiety can manifest itself in a number of different ways. This might include:
- Frequent “Accidents”, despite being housebroken
- Barking or Whining Excessively
- Pacing excessively
- Destructive behaviors like digging, chewing, or scratching
How to Treat Minor Separation Anxiety.
Separation anxiety is often a pretty minor issue. Once you’ve ruled out any medical or physical problems, treating mild separation anxiety is pretty simple. Some ways to treat minor cases include:
- Don’t make a big deal of coming or going.
- Leave your dog with recently-worn clothing of yours.
- Designate a toy or treat to be given when you leave the house, and taken away when you arrive.
How to Handle Severe Separation Anxiety.
Dogs with more severe separation anxiety won’t respond to the more simple measures we’ve outlined. Instead, we suggest ‘simulating’ your exiting routine. Pick up your keys, put on your shoes, or perform other tasks that would typically indicate your departure. But when you do these things, don’t leave. Be sure to repeat this until your dog doesn’t respond to these actions.
From there, you can start to leave in small increments. Stand on the other side of the door for just a few seconds before re-entering. Repeat this until your dog doesn’t respond. From there, build up slowly to five minutes, then ten, then twenty, and so on.
This process will get your dog accustomed to your absence in small increments. It will let your dog know that although you are leaving, you’ll certainly come back soon.
What Not To Do:
There are a few popular, but misinformed mechanisms that people use to attempt solving separation anxiety.
- Punishing your dog. This will only make the situation worse.
- Getting another dog. Well… you can, but it won’t solve the separation anxiety. Your dog isn’t experiencing anxiety from being alone, but from being separated from you specifically. Another animal won’t help with this.
- Crating. If anything, this will only worsen anxiety and your dog may defecate or urinate in the crate.
- TV Noise/Music. Again, your dog is missing you specifically, not noise or music.
- Obedience Work. Separation anxiety is a different issue from disobedience!