Summer’s Over… BACK TO SCHOOL! You think you are bummed… think about how Fido feels.

dog chewing shoesDogs Separation Anxiety – Common Symptoms and Treatment

One of the greatest joys of dog ownership is the tight bond we experience and encourage with our dogs. However, if your dog becomes too reliant or dependent on you, dog separation anxiety can occur when you and your dog are apart.

Look At It from Your Dog’s Perspective

To your dog you are the most important thing in his/her world. Dogs are pack animals that are very social creatures and thrive on company for many reasons. Your dog would spend every bit of his life with you if he could, so it’s only natural that when you go out, your dog experiences varying degrees of distress or anxiety. He becomes confused, doesn’t know where you are going, why he can’t be with you and if you will be coming back to him. When the two of you are separated all he wants is to be reunited with his pack – which is you.

Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate your dog is suffering from separation anxiety:

  1. Getting really worked up or anxious when you are preparing to leave the house.
  2. Engaging in inappropriate behavior only when you are separated. Behavior such as urinating inside, excessive barking and destructive behavior are common symptoms of canine separation anxiety.
  3. Following you everywhere you go and immediately becomes distressed if he can’t be near you.
  4. While you are away there may be excessive barking, crying, chewing, destructive behavior often directed at the windows and doors, inappropriate urinating, digging, escaping, loss of appetite and in severe cases, self       injury.

Why Do Dogs Experience Separation Anxiety?

In some cases the cause or trigger can be pinpointed to a particular event, but more often there appears to be no explanation for the dog separation anxiety to commence. Here are some examples of times when separation anxiety is most likely to occur.

  1. A change in routine. Such as school starting, your work hours changing or a family member leaving home. Dogs are creatures of habit and any changes can be very unsettling and confusing to them.
  2. After your dog experiences a traumatic event while on his own. A bad storm or loud fireworks while your dog is alone can make your dog associate humans leaving with something scary.
  3. If your dog is rarely left alone and becomes overly reliant on his humans.
  4. When you move to a new home or neighborhood.

Please remember that punishing your dog for his separation anxiety related behavior is NEVER the answer and if treated consistently and with love, separation anxiety is manageable.

What Can You Do To Help Your Dog Overcome Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety Treatment

The golden rule is that you must educate your dog to accept the fact that sometimes you will need to be apart from each other. The earlier you start getting your dog used to this fact, the easier it will be, for both of you.

  • Ensure that your dog feels safe and comfortable when you are away from him. Provide plenty of fresh water and clean, warm bedding for your dog in a safe secure gated area of your home.
  • Be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise before leaving the home.
  • Provide some appealing dog toys to help occupy his time. Fill a Kong with canned dog food and freeze it for a fun treat your dog has to work for. Dura-chews, deer antlers and bully sticks are great options as well. (we DO NOT recommend rawhide chews)
  • Leave a blanket or piece of cloth with your dog that has your scent on it.
  • Hide treats in your dog’s gated area so he will have something to hunt for.
  • Leave the radio or TV on while you are away.
  • Sometimes adopting another dog can help.
  • Take obedience classes with your dog.
  • Doggy day care or a friend or family member’s home may be a good option.
  • Pay little or no attention to your dog when preparing to leave the house or returning.
  • Practice leaving without opening the door. Put on your shoes, pick up your keys, and walk to the door, but don’t leave. You may need to do this several times per day for weeks to quell your dog’s anxiety.
  • Keep your arrivals and departures as calm as possible. Don’t indulge in long goodbyes or excited greetings.
  • Have your dog wear a “Thunder Shirt” while he is on his own.
  • Try calming collars and diffusers that release calming aromas (available at Petsmart)
  • Natural calming chews containing colostrum found in mothers milk.

Ask your vet for help – there are many medications available to aid in severe cases of anxiety.