Separation Anxiety in Dogs
You come home after being away all day to find your neighbour complaining about the noise coming from your house, you look around and see pieces of furniture scratched up, the place in a mess and you look down to see one very happy pup that is overly excited to have you home.
Perhaps this is an extreme case but separation anxiety is the most common specific anxiety in dogs.
It is a term that typically refers to a dog that has formed a hyper-attachment to a single individual. If that person isn't present, the dog goes into panic mode.
Isolation distress is a milder form that holds the same symptoms but is comfortable as long as they have a person present such as a trusted friend or family member.
It isn’t exclusive to specific breeds but more common in some than others; usually companion and hunting dogs that are used to being in the company of others.
You may be asking - how can a dog develop separation anxiety?
Usually, dogs develop anxiety in the earlier stages of their life.
Some reasons why this may occur include but are not limited to:
- Ageing changes associated with the central nervous system
- Fear from a past experience (trauma)
- Deprivation of social and environmental exposure
- History of abandonment
- Having multiple owners/neglect
- Illness or painful condition (this contributes to the development of fears and phobias)
Most visible behaviours of separation anxiety in dogs are elimination, destruction and excessive vocalisation.
This means if your dog is:
- Constantly barking, howling and/or whining
- Chewing or digging
- Door scratching
- Urinating or defecating indoors
- Pacing or circling
Then there may be a chance your dog is suffering from dog separation anxiety symptoms.
Other perhaps more subtle dog behaviour problems may include; trembling, withdrawal, hiding, reduced activity and licking/biting self.
If you suspect that your dog is suffering, a good place to start is to ask your breeder/facility your dog came from if they observed any signs of anxiety when in their care.
So what kind of separation anxiety treatment is there?
Well, nothing changes if nothing changes – right? There are multiple answers to that. But it all starts with alterations.
Separation anxiety treatment starts with YOU as a parent. Boosting their independence and teaching them that out of sight doesn’t always mean out of mind will allow your dog to enjoy some alone time again. Modify behaviours to get them to relax and not react to environmental situations.
We have put together some important tips that you can do in order to try and create an anxiety-free zone for your best friend.
- When you leave the house, don't make a point of leaving.
- Try not to smother your pup (we know it’s hard not to!) with love, hugs and kisses before leaving.
- Feed your dog a treat before leaving; enough time before your exit to keep them occupied for a prolonged period after you’ve gone.
- Create a ‘safe place’ for them to go to, i.e. a special corner with a dog bed and their favourite toys. Never use this space during punishments.
- Have someone stop by if they can – dog walker, neighbour, etc.
- Play music that your pup enjoys – you can even get dog radio!
- Don’t make a big spectacle upon your return home.
- Exercise! This stimulates the production of serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ chemical, just like in us humans.
These tips will make your dog realise that you leaving isn’t too much of a big deal and allow them to feel comforted in the time that they do spend alone.
Treating anxiety can take time – just like in humans. Be patient.
Some fur Mum’s/Dad’s like to use things such as dog cameras to keep an eye on their pups at home. Others utilise toys that keep their dog’s brain working as a distraction or even products such as DTP (Deep Touch Pressure) blankets. Remember, everyone is different!
Dog separation medication and supplements are also widely used and recommended by most vets (always consult yours first of course). Here at Petz Park, we put together a simple solution in order to help calm your best friend. Our carefully constructed Stress + Anxiety supplement will make sure your pup gets the most effective ingredients possible to keep them at ease when you leave.
If you have any questions or tips that you’d love for us to share then reach out a paw and get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, you can fill out our online form or connect with us on Facebook (Petz Park) where we can reply almost instantly to your much-loved questions!