Separation Anxiety In Dogs. Written by Nicole McCray
Dogs display different personalities, characteristics, and other traits. Unfortunately, as a dog owner, you do not always know what kind of behaviors your dog will show and react to situations.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have brought home new dogs with all of the extra time spent at home to provide care and training. Because of this, new dogs became used to their owners being around and were accustomed to their routines that included walks during the day and time together. However, now that many businesses and people are beginning to return to everyday life, that might mean spending less time at home.
Dogs are naturally social animals and tend to develop strong bonds with their owners. When you put in the time and are around frequently for your new dog, and then suddenly making a shift in that time when you are not everywhere can impact your dog’s behavior.
That behavior and the symptoms that transpire is known as separation anxiety. Separation anxiety happens when dogs react to spending too much time away from their owners. It is a crucial behavior to look out for, especially when changes in routine are going to occur, which take time away from your pet. Here are some of the signals that your dog may be experiencing separation anxiety and the steps that you should take to prevent it.
Separation Anxiety Signs and Symptoms
Anytime an owner leaves the house, a dog can experience separation anxiety. Dogs will display stress in many forms and try to prevent their owners from leaving the house. Sometimes it can be challenging to tell the difference between separation anxiety and normal puppy behavior if you have a new dog in the home. Dogs can sometimes act shy and destructive when becoming familiar with their new surroundings.
However, some of the most prominent signs and symptoms that indicate a dog is suffering from stress and separation anxiety include:
- Excessive drooling and panting
- Frequent pacing
- Destruction to items and furniture while you are away
- Constant barking or whining
- Attempts to escape a crate or the home
- Going to the bathroom inside, even when housebroken
If you sense or are concerned that your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, you can consult with a veterinarian or dog behavioral specialist for a more accurate diagnosis.
Why do Dogs Suffer From Separation Anxiety?
One of the more common reasons dogs suffer from separation anxiety is a disruption in their lifestyle or routine. Significant changes within the dog’s normal day-to-day activities can cause them to fear any future changes and trigger that anxiety as well.
Some reasons that dogs’ will suddenly experience anxiety include:
- Moving to a new home or unfamiliar place
- Loss of owner, another pet, or another member of the family (grief)
- Returning to work after spending months at home (such as after the global pandemic)
- Going away on vacation for weeks at a time
- Bringing a new baby into the home
These changes in family dynamics and adjustments to new routines can be especially hard for your furry friend because they do not comprehend what is happening. However, do not fret if you know these types of changes may be (or already are) coming; there are preventive measures that you can take to ensure a smooth transition for your dog.
How Can You Prevent Separation Anxiety?
Expert veterinarians and animal behavior specialists state that it is important that while you may want to consult with a veterinarian for diagnosis, it can help to take a holistic approach when working on how to stop separation anxiety in dogs. If you know that a significant change is coming, that will impact your dog’s routine and lifestyle. Therefore, you need to take action to make it as easy as possible.
For example, if you are going back to the office and know you won’t be home as much, you can gradually practice these changes. First, start to leave your dog alone for short periods each day and progressively increase the length of time so that it can become accustomed to the change. Then, your dog will become used to your absence, and it won’t be so sudden.
It is crucial to note that you should never force things upon your dog; if you notice that your dog's behavior changes when you first start leaving the house, then decrease the length of time until your dog can adjust. Patience is essential in helping your dog to cope in the best way.
Other methods of prevention that you can adopt when helping your dog with separation anxiety are:
- Don’t make a big deal when leaving or entering the house - this makes it so that your dog will notice every time you leave and return. If you can act more casual about it and not get your dog all riled up when you walk in the door, your dog will, in turn, understand that your coming and going is not a big deal so that it won’t become anxious.
- You can make your dog’s alone time more enjoyable for them by associating that time with a dog puzzle, game, or toy. Your dog will associate the time of you leaving with it receiving something special and something that will make it happy, so your departure from the home becomes a positive for it. You might also consider natural treats since they will make your dog happy - just ensure that they will keep your dog occupied.
- If you would instead not leave your dog home alone for long periods, you can look into getting a pet sitter or dog trainer. Many times, these types of people will help to stimulate your dog and keep it company, as well as help to train your dog and even teach you some helpful learning tools for your dog.
Your very last resort to treating stress and anxiety in your dog is with medication. You should try each method and consult with a veterinarian for a visit and an accurate diagnosis. Your veterinarian can do a complete examination and advise whether or not a medication is necessary to help keep your dog from suffering from separation anxiety when you leave.
Understanding separation anxiety symptoms and causes will go a long way to assisting you as a new dog owner. As a new dog owner, you should be taking the most holistic preventative approach to understanding and working with your dog will help it overcome triggers and adjust more quickly to changes in its daily life.
In the end, working with your dog will help you eventually develop a stronger bond with your pet and help it cope with anxiety. Taking things slowly and working with your furry friend will result in a much happier and healthier pet.