Last Updated on December 18, 2018
If you own a dog suffering from separation anxiety, you know it can be frustrating and result in unwanted behavior. By doing some searching online and off, you can find articles and training to help lessen your dog’s extreme anxiety, but I feel it is important to continue to get the word out that you and your dog shouldn’t have to deal forever with this.
One of my dogs, Whisky, came into my life with this condition. A few dogs experiencing separation anxiety can be very destructive when left alone, so I am lucky that Whisky only barks when I need to leave her alone.
Separation anxiety can exhibit itself in many types of undesirable behavior from doggedly shadowing you everywhere you go to totally tearing up the house when left unattended. Separation anxiety mostly occurs in dogs coming from a stressful situation, adopted or fostered from home to home or left abandoned. Another situation that may cause separation anxiety is when there is a very frightening event in a dog’s life while by itself, such as a bad thunder and lightening storm or even taunting and teasing by neighborhood kids throwing objects at your dog. This type of traumatic event will then be connected with being left alone and could bring on separation anxiety.
Whisky came to me from a couple who were moving into a home where dogs were not allowed. She obviously had a strong attachment to the couple. It was heart-breaking to watch her go from window to window, expecting her people to return for her. After a day of this she gave in to the fact that this was her new home and became very bonded with me. Whisky was about two years old when she came into my life. Although I don’t know what her first year of life was like, being left by her family seemed to make her concerned that I too, would abandon her. She goes almost everywhere with me since I have my own mobile dog grooming business.
Here are some signs a dog might exhibit if suffering from separation anxiety:
1. barking or howling when left home alone or in a car alone
2. scratching at doors and windows
3. annihilating furniture or other items in the house
4. having accidents in the house even though they never do it any other time
5. tearing through the house
If left outside, they may even find a way out of an “escape-proof” yard.
Dogs are pack animals and enjoy the company of other living creatures, whether they be other dogs, humans or even another species. However, to a dog suffering with this overwhelming anxiety, it does not always help that there is another dog or buddy left with the dog who is suffering. Even when I leave my dog with her best pal, Buster, she is more concerned with why I am not there with her, or that she is not with me.
Although it can be frustrating and heart-breaking to know that your dog is going through this extreme anxiety when separated from you, there are things you can do to help.
One of the best things you can do for your dog is exercise her every day, especially before you have to leave her home alone.
Then, set aside a little time as often as possible to help your dog learn to accept your absense. You can begin by working entirely within your home. If your dog has difficulty being separated from you at all, try entering a room without your dog and closing the door. Don’t stay more than a few seconds and then come out, walk down the hall, maybe go into another room and close the door, wait a few seconds, come out and continue doing this for a little while. Try to take no notice of your dog’s antics as she tries to get your attention. Really though, the most effective way for this to work is to open the door during the brief moment when your dog is quiet if that happens at all. Then you are actually rewarding your dog for being quiet by reuniting with her.
After doing this many times, you can move on to an outside door, leaving your dog inside. Keep the time you are gone very short and do not make a big deal over it., even if your dog makes huge progress. It would be very tempting to really get excited about your dog being quiet, but that may cause her to regress because you would be making a big deal over her progress. What you are working toward is a totally uneventful coming and going. As you progress, make the “away” time longer and longer.
Always try to make your departures as calm and uneventful as possible, maybe leaving a special toy and just saying something like “You stay here. I’ll be back.” or “Guard the house while I’m gone.”
Although you might be thinking of giving your dog a sedative instead of taking the time to work through this, I don’t think that’s the best way to go. These drugs can have side effects and might even make things worse.
7 Symptoms Of Dog Separation Anxiety
Dog separation anxiety is a frequent issue faced by owners all over the world, with latest research suggesting that between 15 and 50% of our dogs show dog separation anxiety symptoms at some particular stage of their life.
While it is not necessarily straight forward for dog owners to distinguish between dog behavior issues and symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs, these are some of the most clear symptoms as well as some more less obvious tell tale indications that owners often miss.
Dog Anxiety Symptom 1: Noise Issues
One of the most clear signs of dog separation anxiety is a dog that makes a large amount of noise while you’re gone. The noise can take the form of barking, howling, whining or crying and because they are frequently really loud, they are most likely to have your neighbors complaining!?
Now, dogs will be noisy for other reasons, but the key indicator for separation anxiety is that your dog will bark, whine, howl or cry as you are leaving, or immediately after you leave. Often they can carry on for an hour non-stop, while others will bark and whine on and off all day long.
Dog Anxiety Symptom 2: Dog Urinating or Pooping In House
Moving on from one of the most blatant signs of dog anxiety to one of the most unpleasant symptoms of dog anxiety to handle, a dog urinating in the house or pooping in the house must top the list.
Unfortunately, a dog could do this anywhere in the house – your kitchen, corridor, sitting room, door-way or maybe your bed. Frequently this behavior will make no sense to you, because your dog is most likely to be completely house trained and you most likely walked them before you left the house and you know they did what they needed to then!
Dog Anxiety Symptom 3: Dog Chewing
Dog chewing is another classic sign of dog separation anxiety and because dogs respond in a different way to the stress of separation, they might be chewing for 2 totally different reasons. Some dogs will be pro-active in attempting to get the ‘pack ‘ back together, and will as a result, try and chew their way out of the house to find their owners. Other dogs will not cope at all and begin to panic and chew as a way to calm themselves down.
Chewing releases a natural endorphin into the body that helps to calm the nervous system. So chewing up your favorite shoes is commonly a dogs way of trying to feel a bit better.
You?ll understand this symptom if you’re a nails chewer yourself, as we frequently chew when we’re feeling anxious. Many of us also comfort eat (which is more chewing), or chew on gum apprehensively (you just have to watch UK soccer executive Alex Ferguson at a match to appreciate this one).
Dog Anxiety Symptom 4: Dog Getting Out, Escaping or Running Away
Some dogs will try and escape while their owner leave them alone, whether that’s making an attempt to dig their way under the hedge, scratch their way through a closed door or get out of the house by any other means they can.
Remember with anxiety symptoms, we’re talking about a dog that’s panicking and the notion of doing something dangerous is not nearly as significant as the necessity to find the pack.
Dog Anxiety Symptom 5: Destructive Dog Behavior
This again is potentially an extraordinarily costly behavior problem in dogs and I’ve seen an extraordinary quantity of damage inflicted on houses by a dog that is panicking and afflicted by separation anxiety.
Frequently destruction takes place around threshold areas of the house where the dog thinks it has the highest chance of getting out. Equally they can target the place they know you left by. So this will involve scratching at doors or around windows, digging up carpets, or chewing plaster around a door. Actually I heard about a dog that absolutely wrecked an entire kitchen while the owner was away for less than an hour.
Dog Anxiety Symptom 6: Dog Health Problems
If the stress that comes from dog separation anxiety becomes too much for a dog, it can lead to health problems, in the same way as humans who can’t handle highly stressful situations can get ill. Frequently the vet will find it hard to diagnose anything specific.
Some dogs show symptoms such as pacing up and down non-stop and they will also froth at the mouth excessively. Other dogs will lick or chew their body to relieve the stress that comes from separation anxiety. This can cause raw patches and a lot of tenderness on areas like the dog’s front legs and paws, or the dog’s tail.
Dog Anxiety Symptom 7: A Dog That Follows You Everywhere
Curiously one of the most common indicators of a dog with separation anxiety shows up when you’re still at home with them!
Some dog owners can’t move round the house without the dog moving too. They literally seem to be stuck to them like sellotape! Some dogs will even lay on top of the owner’s feet to be aware of the slightest movement.
Of course, dogs are pack animals, so if they think the pack is about to leave they will be alert so they know whether they should come too. But similarly, they should feel comfortable enough to let you go into another room without following you every single time.
If your dog shows a few of the dog separation anxiety symptoms listed above, do something now as it will not vanish by itself. They are in need of your help.