Many dogs are afraid of being left alone and may show it by attempting to escape, digging, chewing, howling, barking, defecating and urinating in the house. A dog suffering from separation anxiety may begin showing signs of anxiety when he sees his or her person getting ready to leave.
There are a few things you can do to prevent your dog from working himself up into an anxious state whenever he sees you getting ready to go out the door. Begin by recognizing the signs of a canine separation anxiety attack.
4 Signs Your Dog Is Suffering From Separation Anxiety
What Are Some Of The Causes Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
Just as with people, the cause of separation anxiety is often an early, tragic event involving separation. Dogs adopted from shelters are far more likely to have separation anxiety than those that have belonged to a single individual or family all of their lives.
Other changes can also cause separation anxiety. For example, if a dog’s schedule is changed suddenly and dramatically he or she may develop separation anxiety. A change of residence may also trigger this problem.
Changes in household makeup can cause a dog to be anxious. If a family member leaves or dies, a dog may experience separation anxiety.
Medical problems may also cause this form of anxiety. Dogs who are injured or who have developed kidney or bladder problems causing incontinence may develop separation anxiety as a side effect simply because they feel so insecure and out of control.
Serious conditions such as neurological problems, Cushing's disease or development of age-related dementia may also cause separation anxiety.
If your dog is on medication, it may cause him or her to have accidents indoors. Feeling like a "bad dog" can cause a dog to experience separation anxiety due to feeling out of control.
How Can You Tell What’s Wrong?
Before you begin any kind of behavioral training or treatment to deal with separation anxiety, talk with your vet and have him or her give your dog a thorough physical exam to rule out physical causes of your dogs problem.
Also keep in mind that symptoms of separation anxiety are not necessarily caused by separation anxiety. For example, if your dog is an intact male, he may urinate in the house as a natural function of territorial behavior.
If your dog is a puppy, he may tear things up and chew because that's what puppies do. Before you label this as a symptom of separation anxiety, try keeping your puppy contained, engaged and well supplied with appropriate chew toys.
A bored dog may engage in symptoms of separation anxiety. Be sure to keep your dog active and socialized and give him or her plenty to do.
4 Ways To Prevent Or Treat Separation Anxiety
Does My Dog’s Safe Space Have To Be a Crate?
Some dogs love having a crate for safety and comfort, others are afraid of being confined. If your dog simply will not adjust to crate training, you may try creating a safe space and limiting his access to your entire house by keeping him in a laundry room, sun porch, kitchen, bathroom or other area that has less things that can be destroyed and offers a smaller, more comforting space.
An Active, Engaged Dog Is Rarely an Anxious Dog
Remember that the point of having a pet is to have something to pet and provide companionship. If you are not able to spend time with a dog and you consider this an imposition, you should not have a dog.
If you want your dog to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted (not anxious), you must keep them him or her busy. Remember that you and your dog both need activity in order to have a happy, healthy life. Shared activity will also help you build a good relationship with your pet.
Incorporate These Activities into Your Dog’s Life (and yours!)
Prescription Medications Can Help Dogs with Severe Separation Anxiety
Some dogs are so anxious that they cannot pay attention to natural solutions without the help of a little anti-anxiety medication. When you talk with your vet about your dog’s behavior and the options open to you, he or she may recommend use of an antidepressant or other medication temporarily. This can be a good idea, but you will want to also introduce natural, active interventions and gradually fade the prescription.
Just as with people, chronic use of prescription medications will eventually be negative. Lifestyle changes can be pursued in an unlimited way.
Don’t Let Anxiety Overwhelm You!
Anxiety in dogs can be frustrating for owners, but do your best to stay calm. Never punish or scold your dog for his anxiety. He can't help it, it's an frightening them with punishment and scolding will only make matters worse.