Does your dog become anxious as you prepare to leave the house? Do they trample your shoes, break the door, or eat the corner off an end table during your absence?
Remember, although it looks quite a norm for your furry friend, they may be witnessing separation anxiety.
Factors like alternation of family, schedule modification, change of location, and losing a loved one can result in separation anxiety in pets. The symptoms include defecating, urinating, howling and barking, digging, chewing, escaping, and pacing.
However, you can assist your pet in overcoming it by training them via therapy sessions and getting medical help.
Read on to comprehend more about the reasons behind your dog’s anxious behavior and solutions to overcome it.
Reasons for Separation Anxiety in Pets:
Separation anxiety is common in canines and affects 20% to 40% of dogs once in their lifetime.
It mainly occurs when a dog is overly dependent on its human and is left alone for a long time. It starts with more than just a little whining before you go or some trouble while you are gone.
Did you know dogs adopted from shelters are most likely to form this behavioral issue?
Here is a list of circumstances that links with the emergence of separation anxiety.
1. Alteration of Family or Guardian
The relationship between the pet and guardian and their bonding affects the pet’s behavior.
Separation anxiety might develop if the pet is abandoned, handed to a shelter, or given to a new family or guardian.
2. Schedule Modification
A sudden change in a dog’s time alone might lead to this issue. It would be best if you do not leave your dog for more than four hours, and even less for pups.
A dog could have separation anxiety due to a change in surrounding circumstances, such as when a dog’s guardian switches jobs suddenly and leaves the dog alone for more hours than usual.
3.Change of location
Separation anxiety might occur as a result of moving to a new home.
Evidence points out that a change in the home, such as a new human resident and location shift, can cause or increase canine separation stress.
4.Losing a loved one
The absence of an attachment figure can seriously affect the animal.
This extreme fear of being alone can emerge due to a resident family member’s sudden departure, whether due to death or relocation.
Dogs suffering from the trauma of losing a loved one will start to whimper, pace, pant, or freeze as soon as they sense that a person is about to leave.
What May Trigger Separation Anxiety in Pets?
When their owners are about to depart, some dogs with separation anxiety become triggered.
A dog with this behavioral problem will frequently start barking and exhibiting other distressing behaviors as soon as its owner leaves the premises, often within minutes.
Others appear frightened when their guardians are not around and become overly excited when they get home.
Some major triggering points include:
- Incidents that match their past trauma.
- Environmental change.
- Relocating to different shelters.
- New family or guardian.
- Being apart from the person they adore.
Did you know that Labrador Retrievers, Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, and Cocker Spaniels are more likely to exhibit separation anxiety?
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
Did you know that 14-20% of dogs have separation-related behavioral problems?
Here is the list of signs that shows your dog is fighting with separation anxiety:
- Defecating and urinating: Some dogs urinate and defecate if left alone or separated from their guardians. However, separation anxiety is most likely not the reason if a dog soils the home while his guardian is there.
- Howling and Barking: A dog with separation anxiety may bark or wail when it senses nobody is around. This continual barking or howling is not caused by anything other than being left alone.
- Digging, Chewing, and Destroying: Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety are more likely to chew, dig, and cause damage when their guardians are not around.
- These actions may lead to self-harm, including cracked teeth, wounded paws, and chipped nails.
- Escaping: A dog who is going through this situation may attempt to escape from a space where he is restricted.
- Pacing: When left alone or separated from their parents, dogs may try to cope with the fear by walking in a set pattern.
Meanwhile, some dogs walk back and forth in straight lines, and some pace in circles.
Treatment and Preventive Measures
There are some safety measures you can opt for as a pet parent whenever your dog exhibits signs of separation anxiety.
1. Get Medical Help
You should consult a vet or animal behaviorist familiar with your dog if the symptoms are more severe. They will assist you in determining the issue’s root cause and creating a customized treatment strategy.
The treatment recommendation from a doctor commonly includes behavioral counseling and systematic desensitization.
How do behavioral Therapy and Systematic Desensitization help dogs?
- It helps train them to relax and eat during the owner’s absence.
- It helps them to understand the fear and work to cope with it.
- It helps both owner and pet more compatible with each other’s routines.
- It helps to evoke positive emotions amid phobia and anxiety.
These are proven behavioral strategies to reduce and eliminate separation-related behavior issues.
The process helps to treat phobias by exposing them to low-intensity versions of the feared stimulus that do not cause anxiety and slowly increase the intensity.
How are these treatment procedures carried out?
- Firstly, the dog is exposed to highly brief intervals of owner absence.
- The initial separation period must be concise to prevent the pet from worrying about being alone.
- After the separation period, the owner can reward the pet with treats.
- The period of absence is gradually extended until the recurrence of problematic behavior persists.
- Increasing the interval of separation gradually by analyzing the emotional states of the dog.
The objective of treating a dog with separation anxiety is to alleviate their underlying fear by helping them learn to enjoy themselves and be patient when left alone.
2. Other Treatments
Here are some proven solutions to ease separation anxiety in pets:
- Training and counterconditioning.
- Giving medications like fluoxetine and clomipramine.
- Use of Cannabidiol oil.
- Regular physical exercise.
As a pet parent, you should be more careful if your dog has severe anxiety. To reduce the actions, you can offer your dog a chew toy or a treat ball when you cannot be around them.
3. Preventive Measures
Likewise, if a dog makes several escape attempts, you should keep him far from doors and windows to prevent self-harm and property damage.
Here are some preventive measures you can follow to prevent your fearful pet from getting injured while you are away.
Safety tips to protect your anxious canine:
- You should train them to relax when you are out.
- You should provide them with enough food before leaving.
- It will help if you try to keep them in a peaceful place.
- You can hire someone as your dog sitter.
- Keep them away from outside distractions.
- You should make sure your dog has fun activities to engage in leisure time.
- Make your household routines stable.
You can help them achieve it by arranging things to face the circumstance that causes them to worry without feeling afraid or anxious.
Your dog’s nervous behavior can be distressing to both you and him. However, you should understand and try to help according to the signs of stress your canine show.
It will be best if you do not scold him as it may worsen the condition more badly. Instead, you can train your dog to feel comfortable at home and gradually accept more extended departures.