One of the most common concerns of pet owners is that their dog will become angry or destructive if left alone. We hate to think about our pets being unhappy, and dealing with separation anxiety can be challenging.
Anxiety can have a variety of causes and symptoms, but is typically associated with a dog feeling anxious or worried about being separated from its owner. So how do you know if your pet is suffering when left alone?
Some research has shown that about half of the dogs that suffer from separation anxiety don’t show any signs at all. That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide to help you understand how your dog might feel when they’re alone and how you can help them feel safe and relaxed when you leave the house.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a collection of behaviors that occur when a dog finds being separated from their owners stressful. It can develop for a variety of reasons, but usually it happens when a dog has never learned to be alone.
When puppies are separated from their mother and littermates, they will usually whine or bark and try to get back to you. They then become emotionally bonded and connected to their new human family.
It is important that dogs can be left alone or with other people for short periods of time and they need to feel safe and relaxed doing so. But many dogs are never separated from their owner for various reasons and cannot cope when they are.
What Causes Separation Anxiety?
There’s no evidence as to why some dogs develop anxiety when separated from their humans, but there are a few things we know can trigger them.
- change of ownership – a new family, such as B. when adopting dogs, can be an important trigger
- change of routine – Dogs are creatures of habit and are sensitive to changes, e.g. B. who is at their house during the day, when they are fed and walked, and how long they are alone
- move houses – a new environment can trigger and trigger anxiety in your dog if he is feeling unsafe while settling into his new home
- New people in the house – A new baby, the arrival of a new family member, or the loss of a family member can all trigger anxiety
- boredom and frustration – Dogs need a lot of stimulation to keep their bodies and minds healthy, and if your dog isn’t getting enough exercise or playtime, that leftover energy can manifest itself in anxiety or alert behaviors
- fear – This is common in rescue dogs that have suffered abuse or neglect, or dogs that have failed to develop confidence in a variety of environments. Anxiety can develop into anxiety, and dogs may seek comfort and support from their owner, causing them to struggle with the breakup
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
Fear can manifest itself differently in every dogand while some show obvious symptoms, other dogs may suffer silently while you’re out and behave normally when you return home.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Excessive panting or yawning
- Whining, barking or howling
- Destructive Behaviors
- urinating or defecation in the house
- Ears back and tail between legs
Of course, it’s important to remember that Some of these symptoms could also indicate that your dog has a medical problem. and it’s important to have your pet checked by the vet to rule out these before you begin training.
What if it’s not separation anxiety?
About 8 out of 10 dogs struggle with being separated from their humans. But some of the separation anxiety symptoms could also indicate that your pet has a medical problem. It’s important to rule out other causes before proceeding with treatment and training, and you should always have your dog checked by the vet first.
What should I do if my dog has separation anxiety?
Once you realize that your dog shows signs of sadness when separated, Talk to your veterinarian and discuss a referral to a qualified behaviorist. It’s also important that your vet can rule out other medical causes for your dog’s behavior. You should never punish your dog for his behavior as he doesn’t understand that it is wrong and is only doing it because he feels stressed.
Next you must Try to identify the cause and triggers as this will help guide the treatment plan. Finding the cause can be very difficult and often there are multiple factors and of course you are out when your dog is at its most anxious! Some concerned pet parents may set up a camera around the house to see exactly what their dog is doing when they leave the house – this can be useful for identifying environmental triggers like loud noises or other dogs barking. A behaviorist can also come to your home and help you figure out exactly what is going on with your individual dog.
The goal of treating a dog with anxiety is to teach them to relax and enjoy it, to be left alone, to tolerate it, and knowing that nothing bad will happen. Often the situation cannot be completely resolved and it takes time and patience to support your dog through treatment. Encourage your dog to relax at home and not rely on your company.
How is separation anxiety treated?
Treatment for detachment anxiety depends on the individual dog, their symptoms, and the cause. Your veterinarian or a registered behaviorist can help you identify this and work through a treatment plan using them is often the best way to help your dog.
Here are some of the most common treatments used to treat:
- Make sure you have a consistent routine – Dogs are creatures of habit, and a regular routine of exercise, feeding, and your own habits can help them feel confident and secure
- Make sure you give your dog enough exercise and feed them an appropriate diet
- Start spending more time apart – Leaving your dog alone should be part of your routine
- Minimize disturbances like noise by keeping a radio or television on. Close the curtains and leave your dog in a quiet part of the house.
- Play classical music – it is known to have a calming effect!
- Make sure your dog has enough toys. Lick mats, jigsaw puzzles, and other mind games can provide distraction and keep your dog’s mind busy while you’re out
- Get a regular dog sitter – Getting to know a good dog sitter and getting to know your dog is really important as going out will give you peace of mind that your dog is not alone and will also get your pup used to spending time with other people. We recommend using it rover to find your sitter
- Make sure your dog has walked and eaten a meal before going out to avoid boredom and frustration
Important things to remember when teaching your dog to be left alone:
- Determine how long your dog likes to be left alone by leaving the roomand note how long it takes before your dog starts to seem distressed
- Work slowly and within the limits of your dog and Never punish them for their behavior
- Use lots of high quality rewards and verbal praise to reinforce good behavior
- Gradually build up the amount of time you leave your dog alone
For severe cases there is Medications that vets may prescribe to treat anxiety. They can be helpful for some dogs, but they should be reserved for very serious fear, and only treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause. CBD can also prove helpful for stress management, but it’s wise to consult your veterinarian before giving your pet any new supplements or medications.
How can I prevent separation anxiety?
Build your dog’s confidence and encourage independence from an early age is crucial to helping your dog when it comes to spending time alone. Your dog needs to know that it’s okay to be alone sometimes. But that doesn’t mean going out and leaving her alone all the time to get her used to it. You have to build that up over time.
You should get your dog used to being alone from a young age by moving to a different part of the house for 10 minutes at a time. You can slowly build this up to 20 or 30 minutes and start leaving the house. If you build it up slowly, you’ll soon be able to surface for an hour. When doing this, make sure your dog is in a crate or safe area with plenty of toys and distractions, and has been fed and exercised.
How long can I leave my dog alone?
Dogs should not be left alone for more than 5 to 6 hours, and 4 hours is usually long enough for most dogs. If you have to go out longer, see if you can take your dog with you, or arrange for a friend or dog sitter to come to your house.
Remember that if you are concerned about your pet, you should always consult your vet first for advice and seek help from a qualified behaviorist. Recognizing the signs, getting your pet used to being alone, and working on training techniques will help you along the way in making your dog feel safe and relaxed without you by his side.