One subject that is frequently complained of by dog parents is that their pooches have destructive or disruptive tendencies whenever they are left alone. The behaviors vary from one dog to another but usually include – urinating or defecating, trying to escape, chewing on pillows and destroying furniture, scratching the door, barking, howling, and more. Although these behaviors can also be interpreted as being poorly house trained, in many cases, they are actually signs of a dog that’s suffering from separation anxiety. While every case is completely unique, a dog’s separation anxiety is generally triggered (like the name implies), when the dog’s guardian, leaves or shows signs that suggest they’re about to leave, like reaching for the keys, packing a suitcase \ bag, or even taking the garbage bag out of the bin.
Besides the obvious consequence of causing damage to property, dogs with separation anxiety can also seriously harm themselves by breaking windows and doors, in desperate attempts to escape and find their owners. In addition to the potential physical damage, separation anxiety can also cause dogs irreversible mental damage, as they might misinterpret their owner’s departure for desertion. Over time, these canines might show signs of dog depression, like loss of appetite and interest in playing and going on walks, and general avoidance of contact with other people and pets.wondering how to solve your dog’s separation anxiety? Well, sadly there is no ‘magic solution’ that will make your dog’s separation anxiety miraculously disappear, there are many ways to ease the dog’s suffering and improve the symptoms caused by its separation anxiety.
How Can I Tell If My Dog Suffers From Separation Anxiety?
Like mentioned before, some dogs misbehave because they were never properly house trained, and not because they suffer from separation anxiety. With that being said, there are a few signs that can be good indicators for separation anxiety:
Barking and Howling
Dogs with separation anxiety tend to bark and howl persistently when they’re left on their own or separated from their owners. Note that this kind of bark is constant and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything other than being left alone.
Some dogs walk in specific paths and patterns when separated from their owners. Pacing dogs move in fixed patterns and only do so when their owner isn’t present.
Defecating or Urinating
Many dogs with separation anxiety defecate and urinate when they’re left alone in the house. It’s worth mentioning that dogs who defecate or urinate in the presence of their owner are most likely laking house training and don’t necessarily suffer from separation anxiety.
Some dogs with separation anxiety turn to destructive behaviors when their owner isn’t present. These dogs chew on door frames, break windows or destroy household objects in attempts to comfort themselves.
These behaviors can result in serious self-injuries like broken teeth, broken nails and damage to the paws. As mentioned before, these behaviors indicate separation anxiety only if they occur when the dog is left alone.
Trying To Escape
Dogs with separation anxiety might try to escape from the area their restricted to, attempting to find their owner. Similarly to dogs with destructive behaviors, dogs that try to escape can also severely damage themselves in the process, or get lost when they successfully escape.
How Can I Ease My Dog’s Separation Anxiety?
- Baby steps – start small by only leaving your dog for short periods of around five minutes, and gradually increase the time you spend away until you can leave him for a full workday.
- Counterconditioning – this form of treatment can solve a dog’s separation anxiety entirely. Counterconditioning disassociates the dog’s fearful and anxious feelings towards his owner’s departure and associates it with fun and pleasant feelings. You can do this by feeding your dog with a Chew Treat Ball when you leave the house. The ball can occupy the dog for long periods and help regulate its digestive system. This will help the dog to associate its time alone with a fun and rewarding activity.
- Take your dog out for a walk before you leave – this way when you return home, the dog will be in a relaxed and calm mood. You can reward his calm temper with a meal.
- Don’t communicate with your dog before you leave and after you return – this includes eye contact, speaking, touching or any other means of communication. Just don’t make a fuss about leaving or returning from work. This will eventually teach your dog that your time apart isn’t such a big deal. Practice this technique from anywhere between five minutes to an hour, depending on the severity of the dog’s anxiety.
- Distract your dog’s attention – you can do this by leaving your dog with the TV on, or letting him play with a Self Playing Rubber Ball Toy that will help relieve the dog’s stress and channel his distractive behavior towards a fun, occupying and engaging activity.