How to tell if your dog has separation anxiety
There is no doubt that dogs bring positive effects to the lives of their owners, e.g., providing companionship, and promoting a healthy lifestyle, among others. However, sad to say, much like us (humans), our furry friends experience the disorder known as Separation Anxiety as well.
We know it might sound frightening initially, but don't fret just yet. This blog post will explore this feeling many dogs are experiencing and provide tips that would help you in easing their separation anxiety. That is to say, grab your pen and paper and get ready to learn more about your furry friend.
What is separation anxiety?
Simply put, separation anxiety is triggered when our fur babies become upset because of separation from their owners and the people they're attached to. When left alone, they tend to develop disruptive or destructive behaviours such as howling, chewing, digging, etc. At first glance, these may indicate that our fur buddies need to be taught polite house manners. However, it may also be a symptom of distress.
What causes separation anxiety?
Anyone who's had a dog knows that they might be a bit excited when you leave and come back. Maybe they bark, whine, or run around in circles. But some dogs have issues with separation anxiety that can cause distress to them and to the people they live with. To understand how separation anxiety develops in dogs, we need to understand where it stems from, what happens in a dog's body when it happens, and so on.
01 Change of Guardian or Family
Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter, or given to a new guardian or family can be hard on us, even more on our best friends. Thus, it could trigger the development of separation anxiety for them.
02 Change in Residence
When you change homes, your dogs could develop separation anxiety because they're not yet familiar with the new surroundings. They may think at first that you'll leave them and never return.
03 Change in Schedule
An abrupt change in terms of how long your puppy is left alone could trigger the development of separation anxiety for them since they are not yet familiar with your new timetable for work.
04 Change in Household Membership
Similarly, like us, dogs get attached to things, especially a resident family member. Thus, the sudden absence of the said person, either death or moving away, could trigger them to develop separation anxiety.
05 Look out for the signs.
As a dog owner, you know how amazing it feels to have a best friend. And that friendship is an unbreakable bond. But the moment you leave your dog can be scary and sad for said friend. So what are the signs to look out for when your dog has separation anxiety?
06 Urinating and Defecating
Our canine friends might urinate or defecate when left alone at home or separated from their owners.
As mentioned above, your hounds might defecate when you're alone in the household and are not around. However, aside from this, they may consume all or some of their excrement, which is dangerous to their health.
08 Chewing, Digging, and Destruction
Dogs who develop separation anxiety chew on objects, especially door frames or window sills. Some would dig at doors and doorways, while others destroy household objects. These are dangerous to them if left aside since they can injure themselves, e.g., broken teeth, cuts and scraped paws, and damaged nails.
Another symptom that can indicate separation anxiety in your doggo is when they try to escape from an area where they're confined at your residence. They dig or chew their leashes, doors, or windows. And as previously stated, this behaviour is dangerous to our dogs since it results in self-harm.
10 Barking and Howling
Your doggies that developed separation anxiety could bark or howl consistently when you're not around.
11 Constantly saying goodbye
Saying goodbye to your dog every time you leave them could also trigger their anxiety. So try to make it a point not to do so. Also, don't make a big fuss when coming home since it would only excite them more, and the cycle starts all over again when you leave.
Last but not least, when left alone in the household, some of our woofer friends develop a behaviour of walking or trotting along a specific path in a fixed pattern, which can be in a circular way or a straight line.
Remember, when these behaviours of your fur babies are caused by separation anxiety, it only occurs when their guardian is absent. Some of these symptoms can also occur when they sense that you are about to leave them, such as escaping, howling/barking, chewing, and digging.
Tips for Dog Owners
No one likes to leave their dog at home. The crying, the whining, and the destruction of household objects can be very frustrating. Fortunately, there is something that you can do about it to help your dog combat separation anxiety.
- Set a regular schedule
Dogs are creatures of habit. They like to know what's happening and when. So, setting a regular schedule for leaving and coming home will help your dogs ease their anxiety. Make sure to stick to the schedule as much as possible to avoid confusing your furry friend.
- Give them ample exercise
Just like humans, physical and mental activities can treat behaviour problems, especially when it involves anxiety. To continue, one can do this by doing activities with your fur buddy before going out for work or away for errands. By doing so, when they are left alone in your household, they have less energy; thus, they may tend to rest.
Suggested activities are as follows:
- Daily strolls and outings. Try taking different routes as much as possible so your furry friend can experience new sights and smells.
- If your dog loves to play with fellow doggies, let them do so by taking their leash off.
- You may also play interactive games with your doggo, e.g., fetch, tug-of-war, etc.
While at it, don't forget to keep your dog close to you when spending the day outside. Get him a comfortable dog leash just like ours! Dr. Shiba dog leash comes in 4 colours and is great for small to medium-sized dogs. Never say that your fur buddy is not stylish because this product offers your dog a modern and chic design while keeping them at ease, safe, and comfortable while out on their not-so-little daily adventures around your neighbourhood.
- Create a safe space for them
Designate a special place in your house where your dog can feel safe and comfortable when left alone. This could be their crate or a specific room in your house. Place their favourite toys and blankets in this space to help them feel at ease.
- Leave them with a special treat
Giving your dog a special treat before you leave the house can help ease their anxiety. Choose a treat they love and ensure to only give it to them when you're about to leave. This will create a positive association with being left alone.
- Don't make a big deal out of leaving
Dogs can sense our emotions; if we're anxious or stressed, they will likely pick up on that. So, when leaving the house, try to act casual and relaxed. Avoid making a big fuss out of saying goodbye to your furry friend. This will help them stay calm and relaxed in your absence.
- Seek professional help
If you've tried all the tips above and your dog is still showing signs of separation anxiety, it's best to seek help from a professional. A certified veterinary animal behaviourist can help you create a treatment plan for your dog. This may involve behaviour modification techniques, medication, or a combination.
Separation anxiety is a serious condition that can be difficult to treat on your own. But with the help of a professional, you can give your furry friend the support and care they need to overcome this condition and live a happy and healthy life.
When it comes to helping your dog combat separation anxiety, the most important thing is to be patient and consistent with your dog. It takes time for them to adjust and feel comfortable being alone. But with some patience and effort, you can help your furry friend overcome their separation anxiety.
Do you have any tips on how to help a dog with separation anxiety? Share them with us in the comments below!