Separation Anxiety

Signs of Separation Anxiety

  • When you are home, does your dog shadow you everywhere?
  • When you are ready to leave, or inaccessible to your dog, does s/he shake, pant, tremble, salivate, or pace?
  • When you are gone, does your dog destroy things around the home, often items with your scent on them?
  • When you are gone, does your dog damage the exit points around your home such as doors and windows as if he was trying to escape?
  • When you are gone, does your dog urinate or defecate?
  • When you are gone, does your dog bark or howl excessively?
  • When you return home, does your dog get overly excited?

What Is Separation Anxiety?
It is a distress response that many dogs experience when separated from the people to whom they are most attached. In their panic, dogs typically engage in problem behaviors such as destruction, barking, and house soiling.

What it’s not.
It is not spite, it’s not vindictive, and the dog is not trying to get even for being left alone.

Risk Factors:

  • Dogs of any age, gender, and breed or mix of breed may develop Separation Anxiety
  • Single owner
  • Neutered/Spayed
  • Acquired from a Shelter, Rescue Group, or Veterinary Hospital
  • Found as a stray
  • Lack of attendance in an obedience class
  • Follows the owner excessively
  • Displays excessive greeting behaviors

Does my dog have Separation Anxiety?
Just because your pet chews, or barks or soils the house does not necessarily mean it has separation anxiety. The dog may be teething, have a urinary infection, or responding to outside noises. The only way to get a true picture of your dog’s behavior is to leave a videotape running while you are gone.

What does Separation Anxiety look like?
The dog is not comfortable staying in a room by himself. He follows his owner from room to room and becomes upset if prevented from doing so. The dog may show signs of fear: the heart rate and breathing speeds up, he may pant and salivate. He may need to eliminate. The dog may chew something the owners have recently touched or worn, or with milder anxiety, merely collects and sleeps with them.

What doesn’t work?
Punishment doesn’t work and it can make the problem worse. Not only is the dog anxious about the owner leaving, it’s worried about the owner coming home.
Pleading with the dog “to be good” in an anxious tone of voice when you leave the house. If you’re worried about leaving the house, your dog will be too.

Medication can help.
Some dogs with Separation Anxiety may benefit from pharmacological intervention. Clomicalm and Reconcile have been FDA approved for use in dogs with separation anxiety. There are other drugs that may be helpful–consult your veterinarian.

Drugs don’t take the place of training, but may make training faster and more effective.

Training that helps.

  • Teach your dog to be more independent and to stay quietly alone for short periods of time.
  • Desensitize your dog to your pre-departure clues.
  • Counter condition the triggers: teach your dog a new association between your leaving and how he feels.
  • Gradually increase the amount of time you are gone.

Holistic methods that may help.

  • Dog Appeasing Pheromones have been shown to be effective in decreasing anxieties. It is available from your local pet store as a room diffuser and as a collar the dog wears. Using both together is more effective than just the collar alone.
  • A Thundershirt or Anxiety Wrap may be comforting to your dog.
  • Exercise your dog before leaving. Brain chemicals released during exercise can ameliorate anxiety, stress, depression and frustration.
  • Restrict the dog to a room or place where he can do minimal damage. (Be sure there are no electrical or window blind/shade cords within reach.)
  • Schedule meals so the pet is hungry at departure times. Leave him with a chew toy, such as a Kong stuffed with a favorite treat.
  • A Manners Minder is an automated treat dispenser that will dispense the dogs food at preselected intervals in your absence.
  • Ignore your dog for 30 minutes before you leave.
  • When you return, ignore your dog for the first 10 minutes and keep your greeting very low key.