Identifying and Managing Canine Separation Anxiety - Panhandle Animal Shelter
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Identifying and Managing Canine Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

by Angie Hill of

June 21, 2019

One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Of course, everyone wants to help their pet to stay happy and stress-free. There are some great alternatives to leaving your dog alone, such as using the services of a dog sitter, but if your pooch is displaying associated signs of separation anxiety, then it’s important to understand more.  

Have you noticed that your dog displays behaviors such as drooling or showing signs of anxiousness?  They are clues to the fact that your dog has separation anxiety. This issue is triggered when our four-legged friends become upset due to impending separation from their guardians; after all, they are pack animals.

What Do We Know About Separation Anxiety?

Many dogs who suffer from separation anxiety start to get distressed when their guardians are gearing up to leave the house. Other pups will appear anxious or show signs of being depressed before their owners set off and will try to make them stay at home with them.

Barking and other similar distress behaviours once being left alone can often ensue. When their owners get home, they’ll react as if they have been apart for years and years!

The end goal is to help your dog to overcome the barriers they’re faced with when it comes to separation from their best friend, companion, and loved one. This can be achieved by teaching them to enjoy, or as a minimum, bear, being left alone for a period of time.

This is made capable by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.

Dog crates are, in fact, a very helpful tool you can have on your side. They act as effective shelters and can offer your pooch a feeling of security and safety. Additionally, they’re often used for lowering stress levels in dogs that can spike when you vacate the house.

What is the best dog crate for separation anxiety? Follow the link and find the one to suit you and your pooch.

What are the Typical Symptoms of Separation Anxiety?

Below, we have highlighted some of the most common indicators that your dog is suffering from problems with separation anxiety.

Barking/Howling: Dog’s, when left alone and experiencing separation anxiety, will often begin barking and/or howling. Experts seem to think this is purely down to being left alone and isn’t triggered by anything else.

Chewing and Damaging: You might come across your dog chewing on walls, furniture, footwear, etc. This is tied back to separation anxiety.

Behaviour like this can cause them to hurt themselves, and when you consider the discomfort that broken teeth, cuts, scraped paws and injured nails can lead to, it’s not something you want your doggy to go through.

Ones and Twos: In some cases, dogs will ‘do their business’ when they’re left alone or separated from you. It’s also worth noting that if your dog urinates or defecates in the house while you are there then it’s probably not being caused by separation anxiety.

Absconding: A dog with separation anxiety might attempt to flee from a confined area when left to their own devices or separated from you. This might include chewing or digging at exit points such as windows and doors.

The dangers of trying to escape are obviously surrounded by a whole host of self-injury risks, so if your dog’s escape behaviour is caused by separation anxiety, it will only occur when you’re not present, therefore, you need to visit a veterinarian to help overcome the problem.

Pacing: Walking or trotting along a certain path in an unchanging pattern when left alone is a common sign of separation anxiety.

Back and forth or walking in circles are both examples of this, and won’t happen while you are there. If they do, then it’s more than likely that there’s another underlying problem.  


How Can You Prevent Separation Anxiety?

Vets might be able to prescribe drugs that can help to calm your doggy down a bit, but in reality, this isn’t a cure to it all; it’s just a coping mechanism.

Here are some top tips to beat separation anxiety:

Change Your “Leaving” Signals: For example, try exiting through a different door and put your jacket and shoes on, but don’t go out for at least minutes after doing so.

The aim here is to snap your dog out of their association with certain actions that signal you’re about to leave them. When you do go to leave the house, feed them a treat to distract them from the anxiety.

Treats can help to teach your pooch that being by themselves isn’t something to worry about and supports positive associations with you leaving.

Play it Cool When You Go: It’s easy to get really excited and emotional when you’re leaving your pet because you’re sure to miss them a lot but try to not overexcite them and remain chilled upon leaving and returning too.

The danger, if you don’t, is that you risk reinforcing your pup’s dread of your absence.

Get Some Exercise in Before Leaving: Tiring out your dog is a great way to calm them down. Taking them out to play or for a nice walk at least half an hour before departure will relax them and they’ll be more focused on having a nap than worrying about you going back out!


Angie Hill

Angie Hill has been writing informative and helpful guides since 2014 after deciding that her passion to help animals could help other pet owners and their pets too.  Angie’s love of dogs has always been a big part of how she leads her life. When she is not working and helping others, you’ll find her out and about walking her own pooch, after all, spending time with her is one of the most important things to Angie and her family!