Separation anxiety has been found to be one of the major factors when it comes to behavioral problems in both, puppies and adult dogs.
Separation anxiety is primarily a condition, wherein the animal develops an exaggerated fear or dislike of being isolated from its owner. It is not just restricted to dogs, but is also common in cats, parrots, mice, etc. Separation anxiety has its roots in the animal's extreme reliance or dependency on its owner.
About 10 percent of all dogs are believed to be suffering from this condition, which is definitely a matter of concern, as dealing with it is no child's play.
Classic Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Does your dog get anxious and worked up the moment he realizes that you are about to leave? That, mind you, is the most prominent behavioral symptom of separation distress or anxiety in your pet. You are most likely to notice this behavior when you are picking up your car's keys or putting on your coat, and are about to leave.
Other behavioral signs your dog may exhibit when it is left alone include defecation in the house, urination in inappropriate places, whining, destructive behavior, yelping, excessive barking, fearfulness, and vomiting.
These may also be accompanied by other signs, like digging, panic attacks, howling, chewing, licking, self mutilation, escaping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, excessive salivation, depression, hypersensitivity, jumping through windows, and crying.
Following you wherever you go and greeting you with immense pleasure when you are back are also indicative of the condition. While all these symptoms are usually associated with separation anxiety, some of them―like depression and hypersensitivity―may indicate other medical conditions.
How to Make Good-Byes Easier for Your Puppy?
# The first step would be to prevent your puppy from being too dependent on you. This can be done by reducing the amount of time you spend with him and teaching him that he need not always be close to you.
So, go ahead and ignore his attention seeking behavior, like barking, jumping, clinging, etc. Proceed gradually (say for 5 - 10 minutes for the first day) and go on extending the time. However, there should be no change in his exercise schedule, sleeping, and feeding.
# The next step is to abstain from bidding long and emotional good-byes to your pet when you are leaving him for the day. It may be a bit of a heart-breaking scenario to leave your cute, cuddly, and furry little doggy alone in the house. But remember, you are doing this for his own betterment.
So, while you are leaving, simply pat him and leave. Turning back or returning to reassure your dog, actually worsens things in the long run.
# Then comes the step where you take your pet's mind off the various triggers that induce separation distress. So, start by putting your coat on, wearing your shoes, and picking the car's keys, but do not leave! Instead switch on the TV or read newspaper.
You will notice that your pet becomes anxious initially, but the moment you settle down with the newspaper, he is back to normal. You may even play with the keys; make sure that you bring it to his notice. Continue doing this until your puppy gets used to it, and starts ignoring it.
# Start by keeping your puppy outside for short duration while you are inside your house. After a couple of minutes, go and reunite with him. Make it a point to reunite with him before he starts showing the symptoms we discussed here.
Increase the duration gradually over a couple of weeks. It's a good idea to give your dog a treat or a toy to chew while he is alone. It will keep him occupied and he won't feel your absence.
# Engaging your canine in some tiring activity, like a game or exercise, before you leave your house may also help, as he will get exhausted and fall asleep. Keeping the radio on may also serve as a company for your pet and reduce the feeling of separation anxiety.
These techniques have worked well with almost all pet owners. Cases which are just too severe to be handled by such a training, will have to be dealt with the help of medication as the last resort. However, it's highly unlikely that this training will fail. So, work with your puppy with all your love and your efforts will definitely pay off!