Since we cannot always perceive when our dogs are in distress, it can be challenging to know why they may or may not feel anxious or have issues. Whether your dog is young or old, separation anxiety can occur within our canine friends. Dogs may exhibit extreme stress and anxiety when we leave the home until we return.
There might be multiple reasons surrounding the display of separation anxiety within our furry friends.
Perhaps due to the recent pandemic of COVID-19, many of us had more time at home to care for and be with our dogs or brought a new puppy into the home during that time.
Once the threat of the virus started to lift and things became somewhat normal again, many working folks returned to the office instead of working from home.
Having to go back to the office meant leaving our dogs for hours at a time.
Because of this, your dog might start to exhibit separation anxiety.
Understanding what separation anxiety is in our dogs and how they are affected can go a long way towards allowing us to work to prevent it and ensure our pet’s health and safety.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety in dogs is common, and according to Bond Vet, a vet clinic in New York City, it affects up to 40% of dogs.
Though it does occur in other pets including cats and birds, it is most noticeable in our canine companions.
Dogs will demonstrate different behaviors based on their distress with separation anxiety, from pacing and panting to destroying furniture and clothing.
The symptoms can vary, but the bottom line is that your dog feels distressed whenever you are gone or the person they feel the closest to within the home.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Separation Anxiety?
While the symptoms may be different, some obvious signs can demonstrate your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
The most common signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- Loss of appetite
- Refusal to eat or drink
- Excessive panting, pacing or drooling
- Destruction of property
- Chewing or digging things
- Going bathroom in the house while you’re gone
- Whimpering or whining
- Barking or howling
- Apparent stress when you’re getting ready to leave
- Overexcitement when you return home
Separation anxiety is more severe than a little naughty chewing or whimpering.
The condition is a problematic behavior issue that creates significant stress and anxiety for dogs who are affected.
However, it is the result of legitimate stress.
To detect a genuine case of separation anxiety within your pup, it can help to record video for your dog while you are out of the house to see what types of behavior it is experiencing.
If you see a lot of different symptoms regularly, your next step should be to consult with a veterinarian and possibly, get a referral to a behavior specialist.
What Steps Can You Take to Prevent Separation Anxiety?
Hopefully, you are taking steps to lay a foundation for a well-behaved dog with a newer puppy, such as socialization and obedience training.
In addition, part of your dog’s training should include how to enjoy being alone as a necessary step towards helping to prevent any tendencies of separation anxiety.
When you spend a lot of time with your dog, it is more beneficial to experience time by itself.
At some point, you will be leaving home to do other things, and your dog has to be somewhat self-sufficient.
Whenever you are away from home, it’s important when you return home not to make a big fuss with your dog.
Of course, they will inevitably be excited to see you when you come back, but you don’t want to make them feel that missing you is such a big deal – instead, engage in regular activity and try not to make a big deal so that your dog will be quicker to relax.
What Can You Do if Your Dog Starts to Show Signs of Separation Anxiety?
When you notice your dog acting more anxious or stressed when left alone, you should first contact your veterinarian.
A vet will bring in your dog and assess your pet’s overall health to ensure that the behaviors are not being caused by other medical problems.
Once they can diagnose that it is, in fact, separation anxiety, there are treatment plans that will have to be discussed.
For example, severe anxiety may involve some medication that will help your pet remain calm, which can be used in your absence.
Many times the same drug is used when dogs are anxious due to traveling.
In addition, you will most likely be advised to work on some specific techniques that will help your dog desensitize it to stressors or other triggers that may be causing separation anxiety.
Some of the techniques that you can exercise when your dog needs help calming down include:
- Investing in treats and toys that occupy your pet when you leave the house – if you purchase some games, puzzles, toys, and treats that will help keep your dog’s mind active, it helps keep them more relaxed due to being tired when you aren’t home.
- Getting lots of exercise –– sometimes taking your dog for a long walk or outside for some playtime before you leave home can help them feel exhausted, so they are less likely to do much more than rest while you are gone.
- Desensitize your pup when leaving – sometimes dogs get triggered when they hear our keys or put on shoes. Work on not making a big fuss with your dog when doing these things. It helps if you do these things often, even when you aren’t leaving, so that your dog gets used to them and they don’t associate it with you leaving the house.
Some more moderate or severe cases of separation anxiety might require complex conditioning and desensitization programs.
It takes time for your pup to adjust, so work gradually to ensure that your dog responds and understands.
When working with a dog with separation anxiety, you must never scold or punish your dog for its behaviors.
They will react with more distress.
In addition, punishing your dog may increase the feelings of anxiety within your dog and cause the problem to be much worse.
Severe separation anxiety within your dog isn’t always preventable, even with your efforts.
It can be a complex and challenging behavior to treat.
Working with a vet behaviorist may be your best chance to treat the symptoms and help your dog feel less anxious.
Ensure you practice patience and keep your dog in a positive, happy environment so that you can reduce its behaviors and put separation anxiety away for good.