Every dog owner loves that unbreakable bond they feel with their dog. Whether that dog is an exercise buddy, a working dog, or simply a wonderful and warm companion, dog people love the attention they get from their dogs and dogs love getting attention from their owners. But, what do you do when your dog gets destructive and crazy every time you leave? Most dog people around the world understand what it’s like to have a dog that destroys the house or soils the carpet every time they are left alone. These people usually feel as though they have no choice but to confine their dog to a kennel or to leave it outside. These two options can work in the short run but do nothing to address the root of the problem. Plus, nobody wants to leave a dog in a kennel for more than a few hours at a time and leaving a dog unattended while outside can lead to the pet escaping or injuring itself. When the school season is back in swing, fall is a common time for problems with separation anxiety to crop up or get worse. Read more if you’d like to understand more about the psychology behind canine separation anxiety and find out what you can do to save your dog’s sanity and your home furnishings.
4 Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
- Whenever you are home, your dog follows your every footstep. You cannot go into another room without your dog right behind you and if your dog cannot get to you, he becomes visibly distressed and destroys items or whines and scratches on the door to the room you are in.
- Your dog becomes very anxious as you are preparing to go out the door. Sometimes just getting dressed or putting on makeup may trigger the anxiety in your dog.
- Whenever you leave, and only when you leave, your dog acts out by destroying furniture, scratching up doorways, or relieving themselves on the floor.
- Your dog may become over-excited whenever you come home. Common behaviors might include whining, barking, or jumping, and may take several minutes before he relaxes.
6 Causes of Separation Anxiety
- Dogs often get anxious after an owner returns to work or school after vacation. Behaviors that seemed to improve during the vacation may suddenly take a turn for the worse once the dog is being left alone again.
- Any changes in routine can also cause problems of separation anxiety in dogs. Dogs are highly habitual and become adjusted to certain work shifts. Any changes in work shift or activities may cause some upsetting reactions in your dog.
- Dogs rescued from shelters are at a higher risk of developing separating anxiety. Reasons for this may be due to unaddressed issues from previous owners or from being abandoned and left alone for hours at a time.
- Any trauma incurred while being left alone can trigger anxiety. For example, loud fireworks or thunderstorms that have occurred while you were away may cause your dog to associate you being gone with the stressful event.
- Any dog that is rarely left alone and becomes too used to having people around can experience separation anxiety. Higher energy breeds are more likely to develop this trait than lower energy dogs.
- Moving to a new home full of new sounds and scents can create anxiety for dogs, just as it can in young children.
13 Steps for Relieving Separation Anxiety
- Always make sure that your dog feels safe, secure, and comfortable every time you leave him alone. Make sure he has free access to fresh water and a safe space to sleep.
- Put your dog on a regular exercise routine. Take your dog on ample walks around the neighborhood so that he becomes fully adjusted to the sounds and smells and will be more rested when you leave.
- Leave your dog with plenty of stimulating toys to play with and chew on while you’re away. If it doesn’t seem to exacerbate the anxiety, consider putting away a few toys or bones and only giving them to your dog right before you leave. This could help your dog associate you leaving with positive events.
- Consider the option of leaving a special blanket or jacket that has your scent on to provide him with a little added comfort in your absence.
- If you normally have your TV or radio on while you are home, leave them on while you are away. The familiar sounds may help to relieve some of your dog’s anxiety.
- Getting another dog to keep yours company may work in mild cases, but in severe cases usually won’t have any impact on your original dog and may result in you have two dogs with separation anxiety to deal with instead of just one.
- For shelters dogs, new puppies, and extreme cases, you may consider confining your dog to a kennel or crate while you are away. Keep in mind that a crate needs to be big enough for your dog to stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably and must be equipped with ample fresh water. Crates and kennels are only suggested for a few hours at a time.
- Provide your dog with some new or refresher obedience training sessions. Teaching basic obedience commands can strengthen the bond you have with your dog, increase his trust in you, and help to stimulate him so that maybe his overall anxiety levels will decrease.
- If barking is a primary problem, and you live in an apartment or in close proximity to neighbors, you may have to opt for an anti-barking collar to deal with the barking while you continue trying to combat the root causes. Note that just stopping the barking won’t be the cure as your dog may just resort to finding other ways relieve his anxiety.
- Work on teaching your dog to be a little more independent. Leave your dog in short spurts, either kenneled or confined to another room and then reward him after he sits upon your return.
- Do not let your own anxiety about your dog rub off on him. Dogs tend to feed on the anxiety of their owners and if you’re freaking out about having to leave in the next 10 minutes, the chances are high that he’ll pick up on that and it will only make his own anxiety worse. Instead, remain calm and ignore him for the last 10 minutes or so before you leave. If your dog gets overexcited upon your return, you may need ignore him for another 10 minutes after you get home. Try to have him sit and stay calmly for a while before you give him his well-deserved lovin’s.
- If you’re not going to be gone long enough to incur an accident, feed your dog his main meal just before you leave. Again, the idea is to both get him to associate you leaving with positive events and to stimulate and distract him while you are away.
- If none of these options have worked for you and your dog, you may want to hire a pet sitter or drop your dog off a doggy day care center whenever you are away.
“Separation Anxiety in Dogs” (n.d.). Dog Training Central. Retrieved on 09/04/2017 from: http://www.dog-obedience-training-review.com/separation-anxiety-in-dogs.html