Separation anxiety in dogs is a common and serious problem that affects many dogs, and one that can adversely affect both the dog’s and the owner’s lives! It is a form of anxiety that occurs when a dog is left alone, and is characterized by destructive behavior, excessive vocalization, and/or elimination. Separation anxiety can be difficult to manage and treat, but with patience, understanding, and the right approach, it is possible to help your dog overcome this anxiety and lead a happier, healthier life.
Symptoms for separation anxiety in dogs
Do you think your dog has separation anxiety?
It is important to recognize the signs of separation anxiety in dogs and take steps to address the issue as early as possible. If left untreated, separation anxiety can lead to more serious behavior problems and can have a negative impact on your dog’s (and your!) quality of life.
Here are some signs that your dog may have separation anxiety:
- Excessive vocalization (barking, whining, howling, etc.) when the dog is left alone
- Destructive behavior (chewing, scratching, digging, etc.) when the dog is left alone
- Elimination (urinating or defecating) when left alone, even if they are house-trained
- Depression or lethargy when left alone
- Excessive greeting or clinging when the owner returns
- Difficulty settling or relaxing when left alone
If your dog is exhibiting some or all of these signs, then read on!
How common is separation anxiety in dogs?
Separation anxiety is a common problem in dogs, and it can affect dogs of any age, breed, or size. It is estimated that between 14% and 40% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety, making it one of the most common behavior problems in dogs. Separation anxiety is more common in rescue dogs, as they may have had a difficult past and may have developed anxiety as a result. It is also more common in dogs who have experienced trauma or abuse, or who have had a sudden change in their environment or routine.
What are the underlying causes of separation anxiety in dogs?
There are several factors that can contribute to separation anxiety in dogs. One of the most common causes is a lack of socialization and exposure to different environments and people during a dog’s critical socialization period (between 3 and 12 weeks of age). Dogs who are not properly socialized may be more prone to anxiety and fear when faced with new situations and may be more likely to develop separation anxiety as a result.
Other factors that may contribute to separation anxiety in dogs include:
- A history of abuse or neglect
- A sudden change in environment or routine
- A lack of exercise and mental stimulation
- A lack of training and leadership from the owner
- A medical condition, such as a hormone imbalance or a physical problem that causes pain or discomfort
How can separation anxiety in dogs be managed and treated?
There are several strategies that can help to manage and treat separation anxiety in dogs. It is important to work with a veterinarian or a certified dog behaviorist to determine the best course of treatment for your dog, as every dog is unique and may require a different approach.
Here are some strategies that may be helpful in managing and treating separation anxiety in dogs:
- Soothing Music: You know how music can be soothing and reduce anxiety in humans? Well – the same is true for dogs! Certain types of music can be very helpful in calming dogs down and reducing their stress levels. In fact, there is some dog music that is created specifically to help dogs with separation anxiety!
- Training for separation anxiety: Some trainers specialize in working with dogs who have separation anxiety issues. You may want to consider working with such a trainer. You can also try crate training your dog. Crate training can provide your dog with a safe and comfortable space to relax when you’re not at home. A small, enclosed space can often be less intimidating and scary for a dog when left alone, rather than trying to navigate through the whole big world! Be sure to introduce the crate gradually, and make it a positive experience for your dog.
- DAP diffusers: DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) diffusers release a calming pheromone that can help to reduce anxiety in dogs. These can be placed in the home to provide a calming environment for your dog.
- Calming collars: Similar to the DAP diffusers, calming collars release a synthetic version of the natural calming pheromone that mother dogs produce. Many owners have found that such collars can help to reduce anxiety in dogs.
- Thunder Shirts: One popular option for treating separation anxiety in dogs is the use of a thunder shirt. Thunder shirts are tight-fitting shirts that apply gentle pressure to the dog’s body, kind of like being hugged. As you can imagine, this can very well have a calming effect. These shirts can be helpful for dogs with separation anxiety, as well as other anxiety-related conditions, such as thunderstorm phobia.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may be necessary to help your dog with separation anxiety. Your veterinarian can recommend the right medication for your dog.
Curing dog separation anxiety can take time and patience, but with the right approach and support, most dogs can learn to be comfortable when left alone. It’s important to work with your veterinarian and trainer to develop a plan that’s right for your dog, and to be consistent in your approach to help your dog overcome separation anxiety.