Raising a puppy can bring about a long list of behavioral issues. Chewing, begging, digging, and one of the most common is separation anxiety in dogs. While it’s true that it develops when your dog is older, separation anxiety affects young pups too. And when you don’t curb this behavior at an early age, your dog will age bring with them the anxiety of being left alone.
What is separation anxiety in dogs?
Do you notice nervous behaviors from your dog when he sees you getting ready to leave the house? Do they cry and whine and beg when they see you putting on your shoes? When you come home after a long day, how’s the house? Shoes destroyed, door clawed, plush pillows chewed?
If yes, your dog might have separation anxiety.
This can be seen when your dog displays anxiousness when they are left all alone at home. They are several symptoms and it can vary from one dog to another but the general idea of separation anxiety in dogs is their stressed behavior when they have the house to themselves.
But before trying to help your dog fix or prevent this behavior, it’s important to know what causes it. Here are some reasons why:
- Left alone for the first time
- Change of owners
- Move from shelter to home
- Change in routine or schedule
- Loss of a family member
Symptoms of Dog’s Separation Anxiety
Dogs have different ways of showing their stress and anxiousness. That being said, there are no definite signs of separation anxiety but instead a variety of them.
One or two displays of the following symptoms might not be separation anxiety but if your dog is exhibiting multiple symptoms, it’s time to take a look into it:
- Pacing, whining, or trembling as you prepare to leave the house or when you are gone
- Excessive barking and howling
- Chewing, digging, and other destructive acts on doors or windows
- Urinating and defecating in the house (applicable if your dog is well-trained regarding peeing and pooping time)
- Multiple attempts to escape the house or confinement
You know it’s separation anxiety when your dog doesn’t do any of the mentioned behavior above when you are around. It’s also normal if they exhibit some of these once in a while but a dog with separation anxiety will display these behaviors when left alone all the time.
Unfortunately, research published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science states that these behaviors are some of the most common reasons why owners get rid of their dogs. This is such a sad fact, especially since separation anxiety in dogs can be fixed with simple but important techniques.
What to do with it?
You could be annoyed with your dog’s insistent whining and pacing while you are preparing to leave the house and it’s even more exhaustive coming home to a destroyed living home but it’s sadder for your dog.
But to fix separation anxiety with dogs, you should teach them how to enjoy themselves when they are left alone.
Here are tips to help you!
When used appropriately, the crate can be your dog’s ally. It can be used to overcome dozens of puppy behavioral problems and is an essential training tool to raise a well-behaved dog.
If you use the crate right, you are creating a safe place for your dog. Instead of associating the crate with punishments or locking them there for unwanted behaviors, teach your pup by linking the crate with their favorite things, such as chew toys, treats, and interesting activities.
Some dogs love to stay in their crate for some alone time, where they feel safer and comfortable. However, be careful during the early stages and observe if your puppy settles right away or if it still continues to display boosted anxiety signs.
Remember, crating your dog all day and every day to fix its separation anxiety is not the goal. It’s to keep him and the house safe as you teach him how to enjoy his alone time.
Desensitization and Counter-conditioning
One way to treat separation anxiety in dogs is to form positive associations with new experiences. One way to do this is to teach your puppy that being away from you has its rewards.
You can start by first leaving your dogs for a short time then gradually increasing the amount of time you leave them alone.
If your dog knows that you are leaving by seeing your pre-departure routine, such as putting on your shoes or coat, counter that by giving him a high-value treat. Once he associates you leaving with this favorite treat of his, he might even look forward to you leaving the house.
Another way to make leaving the house easier is by desensitizing. As mentioned, a dog with separation anxiety will panic once he sees your pre-departure routine. To do this, put on your coat or your shoes, or any cues that your dog associates with you leaving, and instead of leaving, go make dinner or watch TV.
Don’t encourage clingy behavior
Dogs are naturally lovable creatures, especially when they cuddle real close or act clingy with you. But tolerating over clinginess only encourages excessive attachment.
Teach your dog to be alone in another room even if you are at home. Teach him the basic ‘stay’ command. Start by going out of sight in short periods and gradually increase.
Another important thing to remember is to keep calm when coming home. Calmly greet your dog with love and don’t exaggerate your voice and actions. If you do, your dog will see you leaving and coming home as a major event that they need to worry about.
If proper training doesn’t work, it’s time to head to the vet. Don’t disregard your dog’s anxiety and worries. We never know when their separation anxiety might lead to depression and panic disorders.
When you noticed that the techniques above aren’t working and their symptoms seem to be getting worse, bring your dog to the veterinarian.