What is Separation Anxiety? Here’s what it is and why your dog could have separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a disorder that causes distress and excessive worry when a person, in this case a dog, is separated from a loved one, home, or other attachment. The extent of the symptoms is different from person to person and can be anything from mild to severe.
In general, for some people, it may only cause mild distress and be limited to one or two situations such as school or work. For others, it may cause them significant distress in multiple settings and lead to significant impairment in their daily life.
There is a variety of symptoms that can trigger the development of separation anxiety including:
feeling nervous about being away from home,
having difficulty concentrating on anything but the separation,
avoiding any situation that would involve being separated from loved ones for an extended period of time,
feeling restless and irritable when not with those they are attached to,
having difficulty falling asleep
According to ASPCA, separation anxiety in dogs is often triggered when dogs are upset about left alone or separated from their guardians. Many dogs with separation anxiety will use extreme measures to escape, often risking injury and destroying the place they live in. This is most common around windows, doors, and other points of access to the outdoors.
Therefore, it is crucial to understand what causes canine separation anxiety. This could be due to:
Getting used to being alone again or after experiencing so much company
Change of their owner
Moving from a dog shelter to a new home
A change in family routine or schedule to which they are used to
Loss of a family member, especially one that was close to them.
How to Deal With a Dog That Is Afraid of Being Left Alone
It is common for dogs to be afraid of being left alone. This can happen for numerous reasons such as being left at an unfamiliar place by their dog owner or just forgotten about.
It’s important to remember that not all dogs are the same. What works for one dog might not work for another. Some things you can do to help your dog conquer his fear of being left alone are:
– Dogs need their space. It is important to offer them a comfortable environment and privacy sometimes. This could be a crate, bed, or blanket that smells like you.
– Step 2 is to gradually increase the duration of the separation. You can leave your dog in a safe area and give them something they enjoy.
How to Help Your Dog Feel Less Afraid When You Leave
If your dog is scared when you leave, it can be difficult to get out the door. But there are some things you can do to help your dog feel less afraid when you leave.
1. Leave a TV or radio on while you’re gone. Dogs are less likely to be scared when they hear people talking and dogs barking in the background.
2. Make sure that your dog has a safe place to go if they need it while you’re gone, like a bed or crate that is in a room with no windows and doors that lock from the inside so they can’t escape outside or get into trouble in your house.
3. Leave your pet with people who will give them lots of love and attention while you’re gone such as friends, family members, or neighbors who live
Companionanimalpsychology.com recommends the following 8 Ways to Encourage Dogs That Are Anxious:
1. Recognize that the dog is fearful
The most commonly-observed signs include nose licking, panting, low ears, grooming, crying and yawning.
2. Help the dog feel safe
Pet your dog, sit beside their dog bed and let them play off your calming presence. Just make sure you’re also calm and positive.
3. Don’t use punishment
Punishing the pet can lead to fear of the dog owner, fear of handling or fear of particular stimuli (approach, reaching out, pulling leash) and the real possibility of aggression.
4. It’s okay to comfort your dog
You can comfort a fearful dog without reinforcing their fear. Does that mean it’s going to solve the problem immediately and alleviate your dogs fear? No, and sometimes there’s going to be a better option than just providing comfort. When it comes to fear you need to be mindful of what would benefit your dog most in any given situation.
5. Don’t force your dog to face their fear of separation anxiety
Forcing your dog to “face their fears” will NOT help them get over it. In fact, it usually makes things worse.
6. Seek professional help
Behavior problems are very common in household pets like dogs and cats. An animal behaviorist can help you solve them. Professionals in the pet-behavior field fall into four main categories:
Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs)
Applied Animal Behaviorists, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs)
Diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (Dip ACVBs)
7. Be in it for the long haul
Be patient — it can take a long time for dogs to overcome their fears.
Dogs are extremely sensitive creatures — they can experience a vast range of feelings and emotions. One of the most difficult emotions to overcome is fear, but with patience and persistence it’s possible to overcome.
8. Make the most of available resources
There is a variety of available resources on how to best train your dog, especially for situations like dog anxiety or separation anxiety. These include:
Hiring a professional,
Books like Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy,
Periodicals like The Whole Dog Journal or Your Dog,
Videos like When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs
Products for controlling your dog like a Training Dog Leash
Products for soothing your dog, such as the PetHonesty Hemp Calming Chews
How To Understand And Resolve Dog Separation Anxiety
How can you tell if your dog is anxious? According to AKC, the most common signs of separation anxiety are:
Urinating or defecating in the house
Repetitive or compulsive behaviors
Treating separation anxiety, as RSPCA suggests, can be achieved in multiple ways, such as:
Leaving a ‘special’ toy.
Encouraging your pet to relax during their independent time.
Getting a dog sitter.
Avoiding punishing your dog.
Seeking the help of a professional.
- Systematic desensitization
Conclusion: The Importance of Understanding Why A Dog Has Separation Anxiety
It is of great importance to know and understand why a dog has separation anxiety.
According to studies, given the chance, a dog with separation anxiety can cause lots of damage to your home, while at the same time injure themselves in the process, as shown in scientific paper from Overall. Dogs with separation-related problems in a study by Gaultier et al, were held responsible for the fire inside a home in the absence of their dog owners.
If your dog barks when you’re not home, you should expect that neighbours might take notice and contact authorities. Sherman and Mills note that if you have a dog with separation-related problems, it’s going to cause some emotional and financial distress in your home. This can lead to surrendering your dog.
Indeed, pet abandonment is one of the common causes of dogs being relinquished to animal shelters. Dogs show aggression at around the same age as separation related issues. As a result, people usually don’t seek help with these issues until it becomes too late.
A dog with separation-related problems often experiences more severe skin problems. Dogs with separation-related issues are also more prone to becoming anxious in response to loud, sudden noises. This may only be the case for dogs who have significant and well-recognized problems. Dogs that have anxiety, might lash out when they’re frustrated. They might also develop phobias or obsessive compulsive behaviours.
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