What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is when a dog or puppy is in a state of distress caused from being separated from their owners or another pet. This can affect all breeds of dogs. Research suggests separation anxiety is a result of trauma from abandonment.
Some situations that may cause separation anxiety include: –
- Being left alone for the very first time.
- Being co-dependent to human companionship or another pet
- A traumatic experience when left alone
- Change of family structure eg: a birth, death, moving out
- A move to a new environment (often seen in rescue dogs)
- Genetic disorders
- Over excited greetings and farewells
- Working from home then returning to work at an office
Signs of separation anxiety
- Excessive vocalisation (howling &/or barking)
- Destructive Chewing (furniture)
- Damage to property (scratching doors, ripping at blinds, etc)
- Urinating and defecating inside when house trained
- Excessive salivation
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Self – mutilation in some cases
Separation anxiety behaviours must not be confused with lack of mental & physical stimulation, boredom, barking specifically at unfamiliar sights or sounds, lack of stimulating activities/toys when left alone or medical issues.
Helping dogs with Separation anxiety
- Providing a dark, secure, den like environment or conditioning your pet to a crate where they can rest and relax when left home alone will build confidence and independence in your pet. Please note, toileting must always be considered when using a crate.
- A physical walk combined with mental stimulation of training before you leave the home will help them to relax & sleep when on their own.
- Food enrichment toys will keep your pet mentally stimulated for long periods of time alone and your pet will develop a good association when you leave the home.
- Leaving the radio or TV on can make them feel less alone in the home.
- A piece of recently worn clothing that smells like you may pacify your pet.
- Engaging a dog walker will assist in breaking up long periods of time alone and provide physical stimulation.
- In severe cases you may wish to discuss with your vet who could recommend medication if needed.
Never correct or punish an anxious dog as their behaviours are not a result of disobedience, rather a distress response.
The anxious behaviours displayed are your dog trying to cope and deal with a highly stressful situation. Punishing your dog will exasperate the problem.