Separation anxiety in dogs is triggered when the animal is away from its owner. The condition is very complex and can cause a number of serious problems for a lot of dogs. According to a Petplan Pet Census from 2018, “around 40% of owners believed their pets suffered from separation anxiety in 2018.” This was an increase of 7% from the 2011 Pet Census.
From the census conducted by Petplan, we can see that there has been a steady increase in dogs suffering from separation anxiety in the UK. Alongside this, many of us have been confined to our homes this last year due to COVID-19, meaning we have unintentionally spent more time with our pets than ever before.
With all of this being said, now that we are returning to some sort of normality, we will be spending more time away from our homes. This could mean a rise in stress levels and separation anxiety among our beloved pets.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide on separation anxiety in dogs and how to deal with it.
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What Is Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
Separation anxiety happens when a dog that is overly attached becomes upset or triggered when left alone. The condition usually occurs when the dog’s owner or guardian leaves the animal alone for any length of time. However, this can also occur with any other persons that a dog has formed a strong connection with.
How To Spot Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety in dogs can manifest itself in a number of different ways. A few telltale indicators may include reports of barking or howling, destructive behaviour and even toilet accidents.
However, many signs of separation anxiety may not be so obvious as they usually occur when the dog is left on its own. Therefore many dogs could be suffering from separation anxiety without their owner even realising. A great way to check if your dog is suffering separation anxiety whilst you are gone is to set up a camera and record them so you can watch it back later.
It’s also important to remember that at first glance separation anxiety in dogs may look like they need more house-training. Therefore it’s important to approach the situation in a calm and understanding manner, as to not make your dog more upset or the situation any worse.
Common Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety
This destructive behaviour can be anything from chewing to digging or even complete destruction. If this is how your dog displays its separation anxiety, then they may chew on furniture or even dig at your door frames to escape. This sort of behaviour can be very dangerous for a dog left on its own, and it may even result in self-injury.
Persistent Barking Or Howling
Another common symptom of separation anxiety in dogs could be reports of persistent barking or howling. These traits are much harder to identify as they usually occur when you are gone and stop once you have returned.
Separation anxiety in dogs can also manifest itself through a number of toileting accidents including uncontrollable urinating or defecating. However, if this occurs when you are present then this could be a sign of a different issue.
Trying To Escape
Finally, as mentioned previously your dog may bite or dig at door frames in an attempt to escape. This behaviour usually occurs when the dog is left alone and is left in an area where it is confined. In addition to this, some dogs with separation anxiety may be able to spot signs of you leaving them before this happens. This too can be dangerous as they may try to escape with you by running through the door when you open it.
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How To Treat Separation Anxiety
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to treat separation anxiety in dogs. One method of help may include prescribed anti-anxiety medication for your dog. Your veterinarian may recommend a form of SSRIs or antidepressants, including Fluoxetine or Clomipramine. Alternatively, they may also offer natural therapies such as Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) which is a natural sedative.
However, alongside medication, there are a number of things you can do as the dog’s owner that will help treat separation anxiety. Firstly, don’t make a big deal with your arrivals or departures. Remain calm when you arrive home and don’t give your dog any attention for the first few minutes. Following this, approach them calmly and give them some love.
Remember, dogs can pick up on your emotions so if you arrive home hyperactive and make a big deal out of the situation, they will wait for you with anticipation which can make their anxiety even worse.
Another way to help a dog with separation anxiety is to get them familiar with your routine before you leave. It’s a good idea to establish words or actions that your dog will associate with you leaving, but more importantly, with your return.
The most common cause of separation anxiety in dogs is the fear that their owner won’t return. Once you demonstrate to your dog that you will return once you leave, they will begin to understand and their anxiety should subside. However, to get to this start with short departures and slowly work up to leaving for longer periods.
Finally, another great way to treat separation anxiety in dogs is to leave them with a piece of recently worn clothes or object that will have your scent. By doing so, your dog will be able to smell you throughout the day, which will provide comfort and ease any feelings of anxiety.
If you are going to confine your dog into a singular room when you leave, you may wish to leave a dirty laundry basket or other toys in that room. In addition to this, make sure that the room has plenty of space and windows so your dog is not in total isolation as this can make their situation even worse.
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Looking To The Future
It may take some time for your dog to tolerate being left alone, and even more, before they are fully cured of their separation anxiety and panic responses. During this time, it’s important to remain patient and calm whilst sticking to all of the advice above.
Furthermore, during this time it may be worthwhile leaving your dog with a family member or friend when you are away or even check them into a daycare facility or kennel where they will be supervised by professionals.
It goes without saying that if your dog is experiencing serious separation anxiety that is resulting in health issues and injuries, you should seek assistance from your vet or professional animal behaviour specialist.
At Kennelstore, we not only offer expert advice and training tips, but we also stock a wide range of dog kennels and runs that will help you and your dogs with all your needs. Why not take a look at all the products we stock here?