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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs results from their dislike of being alone. It upsets both the owner and his dog. Read on to know what causes it and the ways to treat it.
DogAppy Staff
Does your dog try to stay close to things that smell like you? Does it bark during most of the day and howl when left alone? There are chances that he has separation anxiety. Separation anxiety can occur in dogs of all ages and breeds.

Simply put, separation anxiety in dogs is their aversion of isolation. It is a very common cause of behavioral problems in them. When a pet dog becomes overly dependent on the owner, his chances of experiencing separation anxiety increase. Separation anxiety may also have genetic reasons. Some dog breeds have a greater tendency to have separation anxiety than others. The treatment measures depend on the individual dog and the severity of the disorder.

Causes
  • A dog that is habituated to having human company is more prone to experience separation anxiety. It is often experienced when the dog is left alone for the first time.
  • If the dog and his owner have been together for a long time, a sudden departure of the owner leads to separation anxiety in the dog. In case of an unexpected change in the routine or structure of the owner's family, anxiety may grip the dog's mind. This happens if the owner moves to a new house, or if one of the family members leaves the house for any reason.
  • Distressing events in the early years of a dog's life may result in separation anxiety. This includes early separation from his mother or deprivation of attachment, change in the environment or bereavement of someone in the owner's family.
  • A dog that has been made to change his home or if he has not been socialized properly, may experience separation anxiety.
  • Some dogs become nervous when kept unaccompanied. They are afraid to stay alone.
  • One important reason of separation anxiety is the lack of leadership on the owner's part. Dogs are pack animals. They are accustomed to a leader leaving the pack but not the other way round. If an owner behaves like the follower of his dog, the dog assumes leadership. Then he is unable to tolerate the idea of the owner leaving him. So it is important that pet dogs are treated kindly, but not like human beings.
  • Another cause of separation anxiety in dogs is less exercise. If dogs do not know how to channelize their energy through exercise, they react intensely when left alone. They vent their stress by means of some odd behavior.
Symptoms
  • A dog might frantically greet you and crazily follow you wherever you go. When you are preparing to leave home, your dog may exhibit stress, fear, or anxiousness. If your dog whimpers or becomes aggressive at the thought of departing from you, it is possibly because of separation anxiety.
  • If your dog chews on things that smell like you, if it constantly seeks your attention and cannot be left alone, it's an indication of separation anxiety in the dog.
  • If your dog pees anywhere or shows any such unusual behavior, separation anxiety could be the cause.
  • Destructive behavior may indicate higher anxiety levels in the dog. In this case, they destroy household property mostly when they are alone. They do it soon after you leave and some time before you return.
Treatment
  • Make the dog understand that you are the master. Your leadership is helpful for the normal behavior of your dog. Play with the dog when you want to and not when he wants you to. Regular exercise will help direct the built-up energy constructively and avoid negative behavior.
  • See that your arrival or departure (each time you enter or leave the house) is low-key. Do not arouse excitement in the dog. Ensure that he does not overreact to any incident.
  • When leaving the house for a short or long period, communicate to your dog that you are leaving and comfort him by communicating to him, that you would be returning soon. That should make him understand that you are going to be away for some time. The realization will make the dog be prepared for staying without you. The dog recognizes whether you will be returning shortly or after a long time. Establish a communication with your dog that will indicate your actions to him.
  • Before leaving the dog alone, give him something that smells like you. Give him something to do, when you are not at home. Dog toys are a good option. Leaving the radio on, can alleviate the dog's feeling of loneliness.
  • Do not give the dog too much attention while leaving and also immediately after coming. Make your interaction with him as simple and normal as possible.
  • In case the separation anxiety in your dog aggravates, or if you see a drastic change in his behavior, contact the breeder from whom you purchased the dog. Also, seek medical guidance.
  • Do not react harshly to your dog's behavior. Understand that he has difficulty in being alone. Punishing won't help.
The best way to help your dog is to understand him. Give him the warmth and affection he needs. Make him feel secure. Train the dog to be on his own. It's natural for your dog to be affected by your being away, but he needs to be taught to live without you.