Many new pet parents get anxious about leaving their new dog alone for any extended period of time. After a full day at work, they rush home to see their canine companion and ease their anxiety. However, pet parents are not the only ones who get anxious when separated from their pets. Fido can also experience separation anxiety.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Once Fido has been introduced to his new home, he may start partaking in undesirable behavior. For example, you may come home to scratched furniture, caused by frantic clawing or digging. Maybe he urinated or defecated inside even though he is properly housebroken.
These are not necessarily signs of a rebellious or poorly behaved canine. What many owners do not realize is that these difficulties can often be due to separation anxiety in dogs. Understanding how this anxiety manifests itself and what can be done to overcome the problem can help both the owner and dog.
What Does Separation Anxiety Look Like?
Dogs with separation anxiety often manifest certain behaviors, such as clawing, chewing, accidents or whining. When these behaviors are a result of anxiety, they will typically begin soon after the owner has left the home. The behavior occurs regardless of how long the dog is left alone.
The dog may also show extreme attachment when owners are home, such as following them from room to room. Fido may also show signs of anxiety when it is clear that he is about to be left. When the owner returns home, the dog is generally frantic in greeting them.
Affects of Anxiety
Separation anxiety in canines can lead to more than just destroyed furniture. The stress caused by separation anxiety can weaken your pet’s immune system, leaving it vulnerable.
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What Causes Anxiety?
No definitive answer exists for why certain dogs experience separation anxiety. Just like people, different dogs have different needs and react differently to various situations.
Sometimes it may be simply that the dog is accustomed to human companionship and is now being left alone suddenly. Other times it can arise after a traumatic experience for the dog, such as a stay in a kennel or the loss of another pet or member of the household.
Easing Separation Anxiety
If the problem is relatively mild, you can begin to address the issue by not making a big deal out of arrivals and departures. This can help keep the dog feeling relaxed rather than building up emotion in anticipation of what is to come.
It may also help to leave certain ‘comfort’ items, such as a shirt or blanket that smells like you, for your canine companion. Fido can also benefit from a distraction. For example, leaving a Kong filled with his favorite treat will help occupy Fido’s mind and make time go by quicker.
Time to See a Veterinarian
If necessary, there are anxiety medications that can be used with the guidance of a veterinarian.
Sometimes owners find themselves facing a severe and destructive case of separation anxiety. In these situations, it may be necessary to speak to a vet about a prescription for Fido.
This will not be a sedative, but rather something to help keep the anxiety under control. If necessary and with the guidance of a veterinarian, there are over-the-counter options to help ease your canine’s anxiety.
When getting ready to leave, it may help to keep your dog in a particular room or area to limit the possible destruction. Leave your canine companion a few favorite toys and select an area with a view of some sort to help provide distractions.
Again, a shirt, blanket or other laundry can be used to help provide the scent of the owner to help ease an anxious dog. Some owners may also find it helpful to leave the dog with a friend, family member, or doggy daycare to help them cope with their absence.
Things to Remember
It is important to note that the behaviors that accompany separation anxiety are not done out of spite or ‘naughtiness’, but rather in a panic. For this reason, punishment will not help correct the problem. Similarly, while training will help in many areas, it will not reduce anxiety and cannot help with the associated behaviors.
For dogs that do not already regard their crates as a safe place, crating will also not be helpful. Nor will getting another dog, as the anxiety comes more from being separated from the owner, not just being alone.
Finding a solution to separation anxiety can be a difficult part of being a dog owner. Speak with the dog’s veterinarian and review the above tips to help devise a successful plan to amend the troublesome behaviors.
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