Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety comes in several forms, but there are several common denominators.

Generally, dogs that behave badly when the owners go away do so as a result of poor training or simply boredom.  Any dog that is pretty much ok with being left alone but acts out occasionally by chewing things for example, does not suffer from separation anxiety.  This is more a training or lack of exercise issue.

A dog with true separation anxiety absolutely cannot bear to be separated from their owner for even one minute. These dogs will whine and scratch at a closed bathroom door or bark incessantly if the owner steps outside for just a moment. This behavior intensifies the longer the owner is out of sight. They bark, pant, hyperventilate, and howl continuously until the owner returns. They often urinate and defecate in the house, tear up things that smell like the owner such as shoes or socks. They will even destroy things the owner has recently touched, such as a TV remote, or even a telephone. They are so anxiety ridden they cannot function normally or calm themselves down. Even after the owner returns, the dog is overly happy to see the owner and still cannot settle. Jumping and running in circles, and even proudly displaying the destroyed items is common.

Mild or Moderate Cases

Dogs with mild or moderate separation anxiety display the same type of behaviors to a lesser degree. There are several things an owner can do to lessen the anxiety in these cases. Start by not making a fuss over the dog before leaving. Make a plan to reassure the dog by leaving the house for a moment or two, and then returning. Pet the dog only when he is calm. Repeat this process, slowly making the “away” intervals longer. Soon the dog will understand that you will, in fact, return.

Increase exercise and play times as well. Also consider teaching additional tricks and commands. This focuses the dog’s attention on the owner.dogs with plenty of exercise and “owner” time will happily sleep while the owner is away.

Vet Intervention

In severe cases, vet intervention is needed. There are medications that can be prescribed to help calm the dog. There are also many natural or herbal remedies available. Your vet may even suggest a behaviorist to help in training or retraining. In this case, active participation by the owner is highly recommended.

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