Understanding and Managing Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
You might notice your dog’s behavior changes when you are preparing to leave. And when you come home, you might notice your dog has destroyed some of your belongings. These behaviors can be related to separation anxiety, a common issue in dogs. What can owners do to help their dogs become less anxious when they inevitably have to spend some time alone?
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety describes the heightened stress and resulting behaviors that dogs can exhibit when they are left alone. Both puppies and adult dogs can experience this type of anxiety.
What Are the Signs Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety can manifest itself differently in different dogs. The common symptoms can include:
- Excessive whining or barking
- Drooling or panting
- Indoor urination or defecation
- Destructive behaviors, such as chewing or digging
- Attempting to escape
Dogs typically behave this way when you have already left the house. You may come home to accidents or a couch full of holes. If your dog expresses anxiety via vocalization, you may not know about it, unless you get a report from unhappy neighbors.
What Causes Separation Anxiety?
Research suggests that some breeds are more likely to experience separation anxiety, but genetics is not the only factor to consider. Separation anxiety can be caused by:
- A sudden change in your dog’s routine. If your dog is accustomed to you being home for long stretches of time, a change to that routine can be very disruptive. For example, many people who adopted dogs during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic may notice a rise in their pets’ separation anxiety as they transition from working from home to working in an office.
- A new environment. A change in your dog’s environment can also spark separation anxiety. Moving to a new home is stressful for dogs and people alike. Similarly, transitioning from a shelter to an owner’s home can be difficult.
- A change in ownership. Sometimes owners are unable to keep their dogs. The new owners may find that the upheaval in these pups’ lives triggers separation anxiety.
Understanding what causes your dog’s anxiety can help you alleviate the symptoms.
Prevent Separation Anxiety
Dog owners can take proactive steps to prevent separation anxiety before it becomes a regular pattern, particularly when working with puppies.
- Establish and maintain a routine for your dog.
- Start crate training early.
- Ensure your dog has adequate social and physical stimulation.
- Teach your dog cues for settling down.
Manage Separation Anxiety
It isn’t always possible to prevent separation anxiety. If you have adopted a dog from a shelter or your adult dog develops anxious behaviors, there are steps you can take to help manage their symptoms.
- Focus on regular exercise.
- Do not encourage your dog’s clingy behavior.
- Stick to your routine.
- Reward your dog for good behavior while you are away.
- Ask your vet about potential solutions, including training tips and, potentially, medication.
Many dogs can struggle with long stretches of time alone, even if they do not have separation anxiety. If your pup spends a lot of time without you, we can help break up their day. Learn more about our dog walking services.