Separation anxiety in dogs

Did you know 1 in 5 dogs suffer from separation anxiety?

Something as simple as leaving the house can cause separation anxiety in dogs.

Typically there will be an anxiety response within a short period of the cause (20–40 minutes). Here are some signs to look out for and things you can do to help reduce anxiety in your pet.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

  • Chewing on furniture or doors.
  • Digging in the yards, Escaping from the house
  • Howling, barking or crying attempting to get you to come back.
  • Urinating or defecating especially in house trained dogs.

Some causes of Separation Anxiety

We still don’t know why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others don’t. It is important to understand that the destructive behaviour that can often occur is not the dog punishing or trying to ‘seek revenge’ for being left alone but part of a panic response.

  • Away from home longer than usual
  • New environment or new member in the household
  • Loss of a family member
  • After a long vacation your dog may be clingy. especially when you return to your normal routine.
  • Following a traumatic event from your dogs perspective.
  • After a change in the family’s routine or structure (such as a child leaving for college, a change in work schedule, a move to a new home, or a new pet or person in the home).

How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety?

There are many reasons for your dogs behaviour. It is important to correctly diagnose separation anxiety. If you dog shows some or all of these signs they may have separation anxiety. It is best to talk to your local veterinarian or a dog trainer and seek advice.

  • If the behaviour occurs when they are left alone
  • They follow you around the house
  • Dislike spending time outside alone.
  • Shows frantic greeting behaviours.
  • Always occurs when he’s left alone regardless on the length of time.
  • He reacts with excitement, depression, or anxiety to your preparations to leave the house.

What to do If your Dog has Separation Anxiety

Here are some basic tips you can try to help manage your dogs separation anxiety. Most importantly you should speak to your veterinarian or consult with a behavioural specialist if you think your dog has separation anxiety.

  • Avoid over-enthusiastic hellos and goodbyes
  • Leave your dog with an item of clothing that smells like you
  • Create a ‘safety cue’ — this can be a word or an action that is used to signal you’ll be back. Dogs can learn to associate cues with a short absence. Like taking the rubbish out, they know you will be right back and are less likely to get anxious. Other ‘safety cues’ can be TV, radio, a toy (as long as it can’t be torn into little pieces, food based toys (great at keeping them busy).

Remember if you are concerned about you dog having separation anxiety please get in contact with your veterinarian or speak to a dog trainer/ behavioural specialist.

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