One of the most popular issues that dogs deal with is separation anxiety.
What does separation anxiety look like?
Separation anxiety is when you dog exhibits distress and behavior problems when they are left alone or separated from their owner. It can look like many different behaviors.
Going to the bathroom in the house
Some dogs may go potty in the house when separated from their owner. However, if you realize that your dog is going to the bathroom in the house while gone, it is recommended that you rule out any medical reasons first before assuming it’s separation anxiety.
Barking and Howling
This kind of barking and/or howling only happens when left alone, and is constant.
Some doggies with separation anxiety chew on objects, furniture, door frames or window sills, dig at doors/doorways or destroy other household things when they are left alone or apart from their pet parent. It is important to note that this behavior is only classified as separation anxiety if they don’t show this behavior on the regular when their owner around.
This behavior sometimes goes hand in hand with the previous destructive behavior. When you see the chewed up doorframes and scratches on the door, it can be observed that your dog is trying to escape and get out of his confined area where he is left alone.
Some dogs walk or jog along a specific path in a fixed pattern. Some dogs walk back and forth, meanwhile some dogs pace along in circles.
Excessive Panting and Drooling
So why do some dogs get separation anxiety while some do not?
Well, there really isn’t any scientific evidence pointing to why a dog will get separation anxiety. But there are a few situations in which dogs are more prone to develop separation anxiety.
It is more common for dogs that have been rescued or adopted to have separation anxiety because a multiple of scenarios have changed for them like their owners, where they are living, etc.
When a dog switches families, or additional family members have been added/absent, it can be very difficult for them to understand what is going on. Dogs are such loyal animals; they often attached themselves to one person or family. Disrupting that bond can trigger separation anxiety.
Dogs usually tend to stick to a certain schedule as well. They may be used to you only being gone for 4-6 hours a day for work. But what if you get a new job and are gone 8 hours a day? That change can be hard for your pup.
So what do you do if your dog has separation anxiety?
Here are a few tips to follow.
If your dog has mild separation anxiety:
- Try not to make a big deal out of arrivals/departures – try to ignore your dog for the first few minutes and then you can calmly pet them.
- Leave your recently worn clothes around the house – that way your dog can still smell you!
- Consider a natural calming supplement that includes ingredients such as: melatonin, lavender scent, passionflower, lemon balm, chamomile, or CBD.
- Plan daily exercise before you leave.
- Give your dog some chewing time before you leave! When your dog chews, it releases endorphins, which has a comforting and calming affect for your dog.
If your dog has more severe separation anxiety:
- Create a “safe place” for them while you are away. Make sure the space is not too small, confine your pup “loosely” (a room with a window/toys, not total isolation). You can give them lots of toys for distraction and busyness and leave some of your worn clothes around, your scent makes them feel safe.
- It may be time to work with a trainer/behaviorist to create a desensitization and counterconditioning plan.
Even though your dog’s separation anxiety can be frustrating for you as pet parent, it is important to understand what not to do. Here are a few things that won’t help:
It isn't effective for treating separation anxiety and it can make the situation worse.Another dog.
Getting your dog a companion usually doesn't help an anxious dog because their anxiety is the result of their separation from you, not just the result of being alone.Crating.
Your dog will still engage in anxiety responses inside a crate, and they may urinate, defecate, howl or even injure themselves in an attempt to escape. Instead, create other kinds of "safe places" as described above.Radio/TV noise.
Leaving the radio or television on won't help (unless the radio or TV is used as a safety cue).Obedience training.
While formal training is always a good idea, separation anxiety isn't the result of disobedience or lack of training.
At the end of the day, separation anxiety is a difficult behavior for you and your dog to cope with. But hopefully with these tips and recommendations, your doggo can experience a more calming atmosphere over time.