What Is Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
Separation anxiety in dogs is where a dog becomes distressed when it is separated from the ones it attached to. Dogs are pack animals and they prefer not to be alone. Separation anxiety can manifest itself in a number of ways including defecating, urinating, barking or howling. Often the dog will engage in destructive behaviors such as chewing clothes or shoes or ripping furniture. Dogs commonly cause damage around doors and windows.
Separation anxiety in dogs can become so extreme that they harm themselves trying to escape.
Some dogs become upset when they see their owners preparing to leave. They often start barking or drooling. They sometimes even try to prevent their owners from leaving.
Of course, when the owners return, the dog greets them as if they have been away for months.
This is all upsetting for dog owners, so the aim should be to teach the dog that being left alone will not result in harm. He should understand he is not being abandoned forever
Causes of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
You can never really be sure what triggers this behaviour in dogs. It is usually something that happened in the past. It is more common in dogs that have been adopted from shelters, so it could be the sense of abandonment is what started it off.
Other causes could be moving to a new residence or a change in composition of the family. A dog can become anxious after a family member has died or moved away.
Are You Sure Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety?
Your dog may defecate or urinate while you are away. This does not necessarily mean that he is suffering from separation anxiety. He could have a medical condition or it may just be that he has never been properly house trained. If the dog is new he may be marking out his territory.
Younger dogs tend to chew everything within reach. So you should be focusing on that behaviour.
Related Article: Destructive Chewing in Dogs
Other dogs just have a tendency to bark a lot. They will do this whether they are home alone or with their family. This could just have become a bad habit.
You can train a dog to bark less. Related Article: How to Stop a Dog From Barking.
Treatment Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs.
Right now, your dog is telling you that he does not like being left alone. In fact, he may actually fear being left alone.
Your job is to condition him to associate being left alone with pleasant outcomes. Giving a dog some food which will take at least 30 minutes to finish is a good idea. A puzzle toy such as a Kong is a good way to do this. Some trainers recommend leaving the dog for a short time first and gradually building up. So you would give your dog the toy and then leave. If there is enough food in the toy to last about 20 minutes you would return after 40 minutes. Gradually increase the time you are away until the dog accepts that being alone in just a normal part of his life.
If the dog is suffering from a severe case of separation anxiety, this type of conditioning may not work. He may be too anxious to eat when his owners are away from home. In this case, you should seek professional help. There are professionals who specialise is this type of behaviour. You can find someone in your area by checking with the Animal Behavior Society