Everything You Need To Know About Separation Anxiety
Have you heard about Separation Anxiety in Dogs? Whether you are a dog parent or wannabe dog parent, you have to keep an eye out for this situation.
As per research, separation anxiety is one of the major reasons for the abandonment of dogs.
Whenever you leave your dog at home alone, they get tensed about whether or not you will come back. Although, this is something you won’t notice at first, but with time, many of the dog behavior like chewing furniture or your valuable shoes, will be the proof of it.
For example, see this video about what happens when you leave your dog alone.
As you can see in this video, as soon as his parent leaves the room, the dog soon freaks out urinating, chewing, and digging his way out of the crate. The way he was clawing his way out of that crate could be dangerous for himself. Self-inflicted damages are common in dogs with separation anxiety like this.
Imagine coming back home tired and seeing such a mess! Not only is it tiresome for you, but your dog also goes through that stressful period. This is the reason why many dogs have been abandon by their owner.
Signs of Separation Anxiety:
This problem is quite common for dogs obsessed with their owners. You might notice this obsession while staying at home. Your dog follows you from room to room and hardly spends any time alone.
If possible, it is recommended to leave a camera behind when you are gone to notice your dog’s activity. If your dog is howling, barking, urinating just like in the video, then yes your dog is suffering from an anxiety.
You may also see your dog salivating and panting more than usual. The video you have seen is an extreme condition of Separation Anxiety but your dog may be experiencing mild stress.
Other signs include chewing and scratching of furniture, doors & windows. Some dogs may defecate and urinate around the house. This is normal for dogs with no house training, but for trained dogs, this might be the anxiety.
You may also see dog pacing & shaking due to fear. This is a part of anxiety where dog lose control of their movement and causes low blood pressure.
Note: Before considering that your dog has separation anxiety, consult your vet for any other underlying health problems your dog might be experiencing.
While there isn’t any scientific research on the primary reason for separation anxiety, people always associate it with abusive relationships with the owner.
However, some of the most logical reasons for this is due to the dog’s over-attachment with their human leader. Dogs are descendants of the wolf, so it is quite normal for them to roam in pack and follow their leader.
But their leader never leaves them alone!
This is what we have been doing differently which is normal for us, but our canine friend couldn’t understand. They live in a moment. Once they see us going out of the room, they don’t understand if we are ever gonna come back, imagining that they are stuck in that solitary forever.
Another reason for this anxiety is boredom, as canine loves to interact with other playmates. When left alone, without any toys, they try to come up with their own chewing toys which you are not going to like.
Inconsistency with timing is another reason why a dog develops anxiety. When you bring a dog home, it takes a few weeks for him to stick to a schedule.
Believe it or not, but it has been proven in research that your dog knows the time well. They know when it is time to go out for a walk, feed, poop, etc. Heck, even you will find a video online of a dog waking their human buddy at the exact same time everyday.
Once dogs get stuck to one schedule, it is then tough for them to change it. We as humans are prone to these inconsistencies every time, but for them coping with these changes is difficult as they depend too much on us.
For example when your job timing changes, you are not home when your dog expects you to be. This issue arises even in older and home trained dogs.
1. First, check the severity of the problem
To deal with this problem, you have to first check the severity of it. To check if your dog feels anxious or stressed while you prepare to leave the house.
Your dog detects your intention of going out when they see your getting ready for it. These activities could be anything like spraying deodorant, making your hair, wearing shoes, etc. any activity which you perform before leaving your home.
If your dog reacts to it by whining or barking, then don’t immediately go outside. Stay at home for 10 – 15 minutes and then walk out without interacting with him.
If your dog doesn’t react to it then get out of the house, and come back after 10 – 15 minutes to notice any signs of distress in him.
2. Walk before work:
Prior to leaving, make sure you take your dog out for a walk. Spend at least 30 minutes while playing fetch or other rigorous activity.
Note: For dogs like pugs & bulldogs, avoid exercise, instead stick to walking, as they are prone to breathing issues known as BOAS
This activity will release their extra energy and help them to sleep better while you are gone. It is also helpful in burning that extra fat, and counter obesity which is quite common in dogs nowadays.
3. Desensitization and Counter-conditioning:
This method is used by many dog experts and trainers. By doing this, you are training your dog, not to react to loneliness and be confident at your home.
Start with a stay command, if your dog knows the stay command, make him stay while you leave the door, and come back immediately after. If your dog react with patience, reward him with treats, otherwise command him to stay and do the procedure again.
Once done correctly, move out and return after 30 seconds. If you dog stays calm then reward him and continue to increase the time to 1 minute.
In this way you are teaching your dog, that once you walk out of that door, you will always return. This way you will be Desensitizing him of you walking out of that door.
You could also provide him with toys like Kong bones just like below, while you move out, but only to return after a few minutes. This way you are teaching him to focus on other activities while you are gone. It is called counter-conditioning.
4. Avoid too much petting at home:
Petting is the best way to tell dogs that you love them, but don’t spend too much time on that. Help your dog to be more confident while being alone.
While being at home, try to leave your dog with his toys in another room. If your dog keeps following you all day, it means that he is very much dependent on you.
Teach them to play with toys, try hiding some of the treats around that allows them to scavenge hunting. Mental stimulation is equally important to them like exercise, that why we recommend you to buy puzzle toys available.
5. Keep that TV on:
Just like us, our canine buddy gets bored. But just like us, they can’t turn on the TV and tune to their favorite show.
According to an article by National Geographic, dogs do perceive the images on television and engage to the sound. Some of them love to see dogs and other animals on TV while some spend time watching the news as they perceive that the anchor is talking to them. This way they never feel alone in the house.
While keeping the dog audience in mind, there are YouTube channels like DogTv which feature all the shows dogs like to watch.
But if you are looking for free version than you can search on YouTube for videos like one given below.
You can notice that this video contains classical music in the background which is proven to be having a calming effect on dogs (as per the research). So if you own a sound system at home, you could use it instead of TV for playing classical music.
Doggy Day Care:
Despite these methods above, Doggy Day Care is one of the crucial methods to deal with the dog’s Separation Anxiety.
However, this is not the one stop solution, as some dogs develop anxiety from other dogs as well and you are still leaving him alone.
Doggy Day Care provides your dog with the necessary socialization he needs. He would be learning, playing and interacting with other dogs.
It helps your dog to become more friendly with other people & pets.
These are some of the techniques you could use to help your dog with Separation Anxiety. But if it still doesn’t work, then you could seek help from your vet. There are various ointments available which has proven to be beneficial for dogs with anxiety.
Overall you have to understand the complexity and behaviour of your dog, how he reacts as each and every dog responds differently to different techniques.
I hope you have found your solution. Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below.