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separation anxiety
dog separation anxiety
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Dogs And Separation Anxiety
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Dogs and Separation Anxiety

When you leave your home whether you are going to work, shopping or for whatever reason, you never expect to come back to a house that has been destroyed by the family dog. Unfortunately, this example is what happens when your dog suffers from extreme separation anxiety and these dogs do not adjust well to being left alone.

If you have seen the movie Marley and Me, you may remember how Marley destroys the house after being left alone for the day. He chews up everything including the walls, windows and furniture. This is a excellent example of severe separation anxiety and it occurs in approximately 15% of dogs. So what exactly is separation anxiety and what causes it?

Dog separation anxiety is best described as a dog in distress. He panics when his pack leader or companion human leaves and it is believed the dog is trying to reunite with its owner.

Dog separation anxiety is more prevalent in dogs that have been abandoned or given up to a shelter. Some dogs that are adopted out to a new family will also show symptoms of separation anxiety. Other triggers may include moving to a new home, the death or departure of a family member, or even a significant change in the schedule of the dogs owner.

A dog with separation anxiety may also try to prevent you from leaving your house. He could become anxious, excited or even depressed before you leave and once you do, may immediately start barking or howling incessantly. Upon your return you will receive a frantic or frenzied greeting and your dog may follow you from room to room afraid to leave your side.

Some symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Excessive barking and howling
  • Destructive chewing
  • Digging
  • Pacing
  • Urinating in the house when potty trained
  • Deficating in the house when potty trained
  • Running away or trying to escape
  • Self Mutiliation

It is important to note this is not a behavior any dog should be punished for. Your dog is in distress and there are some steps you can take to help alleviate your dogs anxiety. Of course, as always, you do want to eliminate any possibility of existing medical condtions that may be contributing to your dogs inappropriate behavior.

There are also some inappropriate behaviors that may be confused with separation anxiety such as dogs that are bored and chew things up, dogs who have not been properly potty trained, dogs marking territory in a new home, or puppies that are just out to chew up the world because they can.

So what can you do if your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety? There are many different opinions on the cures of separation anxiety but here are some basic steps you can take to help your dog become less distressed when you leave or arrive back home.

  1. First you never want to make a big deal about coming or going. When you arrive home don't acknowledge your dog right away (Personally, I know this one can be really tough). After your dog settles down in a few minutes go ahead and pet and acknowledge him.
  2. Desensitize your dog's need to be with you all the time. When you are at home make sure your dog spends some time outdoors or in another room. You may need to do this gradually until he can be away from you for at least 30 minutes.
  3. When you leave your home there are certain triggers that alert your dog to your departure such as getting ready for work, putting on your shoes, grabbing your pack, or the sound of your keys. You can desensitize your dog's anxiety by performing these cues and then simply not leave.
  4. You can also desensitize your dogs anxiety by performing the above departure cues then stepping out of the house and returning in a few minutes before the anxiety escalates.
  5. By taking your dog for a 30 minute walk before leaving, your dog will become more relaxed on your departure.
  6. Leave an article of clothing with your scent in you dog's favorite resting spot.

If your dog suffers from mild to severe separation anxiety a sedative from the vet may be recommended. If you do medicate your dog, it will be more realxed and benefit more while performing the desensitizing exercises mentioned above.

Not recommended are;

  • Obedience training - Your dog is panicing and in distress. It is not being disobedient.
  • Getting a companion - Your dog is experiencing distress because its separated from you and not because its alone (although there is nothing wrong with getting a companion for your furry friend).

As you can see there are many things that can be done to help your dog in distress. It will take a little time and patience but please dont give up on them. They are so full of love and trust, sometimes they just need a little guidance to help them understand what we expect from them.

Street Talk

Great article and information, dog suffers from extreme separation anxiety and being left alone will not help matters at all. trying to make the dog feel like a added family members needs to be the goal.

  about 1 decade ago

Thanks for the input William. It is greatly appreciated. :)

  about 1 decade ago
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