dog seperation anxiety dog behaviour

Separation Anxiety

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)
  • Digging
  • Damage to property (scratching doors, ripping at blinds, etc)
  • Pacing
  • Urinating and defecating inside when house trained
  • Excessive salivation
  • Trembling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Escaping
  • 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

  1. 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.
  2. A physical walk combined with mental stimulation of training before you leave the home will help them to relax & sleep when on their own.
  3. 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.
  4. Leaving the radio or TV on can make them feel less alone in the home.
  5. A piece of recently worn clothing that smells like you may pacify your pet.
  6. Engaging a dog walker will assist in breaking up long periods of time alone and provide physical stimulation.
  7. 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.

With a lot of time & patience most dogs will become more confident and independent lessening the anxiety symptoms.