Understanding the Separation Anxiety behaviour
Attachment and Fear of Isolation
Dogs are social animals and form strong attachments to their owners. Being left alone can be stressful for them, particularly if they’re predisposed to anxiety. This fear of isolation is often the underlying cause of separation anxiety.
Change in Environment or Routine
Changes in a dog’s environment or routine, such as moving to a new house, a change in the owner’s work schedule, or after a stay in a boarding kennel, can trigger separation anxiety.
Traumatic events, like a severe storm when the dog was alone, can lead to separation anxiety. Dogs with a history of rehoming or abandonment may also be more prone to separation anxiety.
Older dogs might develop separation anxiety as they age, especially if they start experiencing loss of hearing or sight, or cognitive decline.
Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Excessive Barking or Howling:
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety may resort to incessant barking or howling, usually initiating soon after their owner’s departure. This vocalization is a cry for help, expressing the dog’s discomfort and panic from being left alone.
Dogs with separation anxiety often engage in destructive behaviors, such as chewing furniture or scratching doors and windows, even to the point of self-injury. They focus this destructive energy near exit points, symbolizing their desire to escape and reunite with their owner.
Urinating and Defecating:
Separation anxiety can lead to inappropriate elimination in dogs, regardless of their potty training status. The stress of being alone can induce a physiological response, leading to unwanted accidents.
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety may display compulsive behavior, like pacing in a fixed pattern. This repetitive movement acts as a coping mechanism for their stress and anxiety during their owner’s absence.
Escaping behaviors, such as frantic attempts to break free from confined areas, are commonly seen in dogs with separation anxiety. Their desperation to escape and find their owner can often lead to self-inflicted injuries.
A dog experiencing separation anxiety might engage in coprophagia, the consumption of their own feces, a distressing behavior typically triggered by extreme stress or anxiety.
Changes in Appetite:
Dogs dealing with separation anxiety might stop eating or drinking when left alone, indicating that their distress significantly impacts normal behaviors, including their appetite.
Excessive Salivation, Panting, or Drooling
Symptoms of stress such as excessive salivation, panting, or drooling are prevalent in dogs with separation anxiety. These physical manifestations reflect their internal distress when separated from their owners.
Dogs may exhibit signs of depression like lethargy, decreased interest in favorite activities, or altered sleeping patterns, a testament to the emotional toll of separation anxiety.
These symptoms often begin just before or shortly after the guardian’s departure and are more severe in the first 15-45 minutes.
Triggers of Separation Anxiety
Change in Routine or Environment :
Like humans, dogs are creatures of habit. Changes in their daily routine or their environment can make them anxious. This could be a move to a new house, changes in work schedules, or even a new family member. Dogs thrive on routine, so any significant alteration can be a potential trigger for separation anxiety.
Past Trauma :
Dogs who have been through traumatic experiences, such as abandonment or being re-homed several times, are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety. They might worry that when you leave, you won’t come back.
Health Issues :
Certain health problems can also trigger separation anxiety. For example, as dogs age, they might start experiencing hearing or vision loss, which can lead to increased anxiety.
Lack of Training or Socialization :
Puppies who are not properly socialized may develop separation anxiety. The same goes for dogs who have never been trained to be alone. They may become overly reliant on their owners for companionship and become anxious when left alone.
How to Handle a Dog’s Separation Anxiety – Do’s and Don’ts
One of the most effective ways to tackle separation anxiety is through a technique called ‘gradual desensitization.’ This technique involves gradually getting your dog used to being alone. Start with very short periods of separation and gradually increase the duration over time.
Create a Safe Space
Create a comfortable, safe space for your dog. This could be a specific room or a crate (if they’re crate trained). Fill this space with their favorite toys and blankets. This space should be a place where they feel secure and comfortable, even when you’re not around.
Before you leave, give your dog a puzzle toy filled with their favorite treat. This will keep them distracted for a while, and they’ll begin to associate your departure with something positive.
Avoid Long Goodbyes
Long, emotional goodbyes can increase your dog’s anxiety. Instead, try to make your departures and arrivals as low-key as possible.
Don’t Punish Them
Punishing your dog for their anxiety-related behavior won’t help and can even make the situation worse. Remember, the destructive behavior is not being done out of spite or malice – it’s a panic response.
Don’t Leave Them Alone for Too Long
If possible, try to avoid leaving your dog alone for long periods. If you need to be away for a long time, consider hiring a pet sitter or asking a friend to check in on them.
Recommended Products to Manage the Separation Anxiety Behavior in Dogs
|It allows for two-way communication so you can talk to your dog and soothe them with your voice.|
|It has a treat dispenser, which allows you to reward your dog remotely.|
|It’s equipped with a barking sensor to alert you when your dog is barking.|
|It has a full HD camera and night vision so you can monitor your dog at all times.|
|It comes with an easy-to-use app that works on both iOS and Android devices.|
|Furbo has real-time barking alerts to notify you when your dog is stressed.|
|It helps in reducing separation anxiety in dogs by allowing you to communicate with them remotely.|
|The treat dispenser function rewards good behavior, which can be used for training.|
|Night vision allows you to monitor your dog even in low light conditions.|
|The barking alert system keeps you aware of your dog’s behavior even when you’re not home.|
|It is on the pricey side compared to other pet cameras.|
|There could be possible connectivity issues with weak Wi-Fi signals.|
|Some dogs may not respond well to the sound of their owner’s voice from the device.|
|The camera does not pan or tilt to follow the dog’s movements.|
|It uses gentle hugging to calm your dog’s anxiety, fear, and over-excitement.|
|It is safe, drug-free, and easy to use.|
|The adjustable design ensures a comfortable and secure fit for your dog.|
|It comes in various sizes to fit different dog breeds.|
|It’s made of soft, breathable fabric to ensure comfort for your pet.|
|The ThunderShirt can be machine washed and dried.|
|It provides immediate relief for anxiety symptoms.|
|The product is drug-free and non-invasive.|
|It’s adjustable to fit dogs of different sizes and shapes.|
|It’s easy to use with no training required.|
|It may not work for all dogs.|
|Some dogs may not feel comfortable wearing it.|
|The jacket needs to be put on and taken off, which may be difficult with an anxious dog.|
|It is only effective when the dog is wearing it, and can’t be worn all the time.|
|It emits a synthetic version of the dog-appeasing pheromone that calms dogs in stressful situations.|
|It covers up to 700 square feet of space.|
|Each refill lasts up to 30 days.|
|It is easy to use – just plug into any electrical socket.|
|The device is safe for dogs of all ages and breeds.|
|The Adaptil diffuser does not have any strong scent or odor.|
|It helps to create a calming environment for your dog.|
|It’s a non-drug solution, making it safe for long-term use.|
|The refills last for a considerable period.|
|It can cover a large area, making it suitable for homes of any size.|
|It needs an electrical socket to operate.|
|The effect may not be immediate and may take some time to show results.|
|It may not be effective for all dogs.|
|The diffuser needs to be refilled monthly which adds to the long-term cost.|
|It has a real-feel pulsing heartbeat that comforts your dog.|
|It includes heat packs to mimic body warmth.|
|It’s soft and cuddly, making it a perfect sleeping companion for your pet.|
|The heartbeat and heat pack can be removed when not required.|
|The product is safe for pets of all ages.|
|The Snuggle Puppy is machine washable.|
|The heartbeat and warmth can provide comfort and reduce anxiety.|
|It can help young puppies transition into a new home.|
|The toy is machine washable making it easy to clean.|
|The removable heat pack and heartbeat device increase the product’s longevity.|
|Heat packs need to be replaced regularly.|
|The heartbeat sound may not be audible to some dogs.|
|Not all dogs may take to a soft toy for comfort.|
|The toy isn’t very durable and may not withstand heavy chewers.|
|The bed has a built-in heater to provide a cozy sleeping environment.|
|It’s designed with a tall, surrounding edge for dogs who like to snuggle.|
|The cover is removable and machine washable.|
|It comes in different sizes to fit all dogs.|
|The heater is energy-efficient and uses minimal electricity.|
|The bed is made of soft, comfortable materials.|
|The warmth of the bed can provide comfort and reduce anxiety.|
|The bed is easy to clean with a removable, machine-washable cover.|
|It’s energy-efficient and safe for pets.|
|Different sizes cater to all dog breeds.|
|The bed requires access to an electrical outlet.|
|Some dogs may not prefer heated beds.|
|The heat control is not adjustable.|
|The bed may not be durable enough for heavy chewers.|
|The calming bites are made with a blend of natural ingredients like Suntheanine, a pure form of L|
|Theanine helps to promote relaxation without causing drowsiness.|
|They also include other calming ingredients like Organic Hemp, Chamomile, and Valerian Root.|
|They come in turkey and peanut butter flavors.|
|They are suitable for dogs of all sizes and breeds.|
|The product is made in facilities that are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) compliant.|
|The bites help to reduce stress and anxiety without causing drowsiness.|
|They are made with natural and organic ingredients.|
|They are easy to administer with their delicious flavors.|
|They are free from common allergens and harmful additives.|
|The bites may not be suitable for dogs with certain food allergies.|
|Some dogs may not like the taste.|
|They may not be effective for severe anxiety.|
|Regular administration is required for continued benefits.|
Recap of Key Strategies for Managing Separation Anxiety
Let’s quickly go over some of the strategies we’ve discussed:
Understanding the root of the issue:
Remember, your dog isn’t acting out to annoy you. They’re genuinely distressed when you’re not around.
Recognizing the signs:
Destruction of property, excessive barking, and accidents in the house can all be signs of separation anxiety.
Try to find out what’s causing your dog’s anxiety. Is it when you pick up your keys? Or when you put on your shoes? Once you identify these triggers, you can begin to work on them.
Implementing a plan:
Start with small steps, gradually increasing the amount of time you spend away from your dog. Be consistent and patient.
Using products to help:
Calming products, noise-masking devices, comfortable beds, and professional help can all play a role in managing your dog’s anxiety.
Final Thoughts on the Importance of Patience and Consistency in the Training Process
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this article, it’s that patience and consistency are your best friends. You won’t see changes overnight, and that’s okay. With the right strategies in place and a whole lot of love, you and your furry friend will get through this.
Remember, it’s not just about managing your dog’s separation anxiety. It’s about improving their quality of life – and yours, too. And that, my friend, is worth every bit of effort.