Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety?


Overcoming dog separation anxietyAnxiety, like in humans, can affect all types of dogs and it has nothing to do with how big and strong, or little and large, they might be. The problem tends to arise in puppies but can affect dogs of all ages and breeds of all kinds. Here are some ways that you can tackle the problem and help your dog to relax.

Common symptoms of separation anxiety

Certain symptoms and behaviours may indicate separation anxiety. Some like persistent barking or chewing can be quite normal and common. However, the frequency and level of the action can help you to determine if something else is going on. Common markers of separation anxiety include:

  • Persistent barking and howling when left alone
  • Urinating and defecating around the home (only when left alone)
  • Pacing in circular patterns or back and forth when left alone
  • Destructive behaviours like digging, scratching, chewing when left alone
  • Trying to escape rooms and buildings when left alone
  • Consuming their excrement when left alone
  • Following you all around the house when you arrive home
  • Panting and pacing before you leave

Overcoming separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is estimated to affect around 14 percent of dogs and research is as of yet inconclusive as to where the problem stems from. However, whatever the underlying factors, there are some useful techniques that you can employ to help them get used to being at home alone and help them to relax when you are away.

With puppies, it is important to start helping them adjust early on to the idea of you being away from them. You can do this by leaving the house just for short periods of time and slowly increasing the length of time away as they become more and more comfortable with you leaving.

Installing stair-gates in your home can also help, for instance in the kitchen. While you are separated from your dog, they will still be able to see you, but they will get used to not being able to interact with you which can be helpful when you leave the home for longer periods of time.

A common technique to keep your dog calm while you are away is to leave a piece of clothing near them that you have worn recently. Dogs have a strong sense of smell and will be able to associate this clothing item with you.

Another way is to leave the radio on. Don’t turn it up really loud with music but instead switch to a station with plenty of human conversation that can be left at a low level and will keep your dog company in your absence.

Finally, there are many techniques that you can use to help treat mild separation anxiety in dogs. One such technique is to provide your dog with a special treat each time you leave the home and then take it from them when you return. Gradually increase the time that you go away for and see how your dog reacts. Don’t be deterred if your dog becomes uncomfortable, you may have to start again from the beginning, but you should start to see results.

Some dogs can be trickier than others and may have more complex issues.  If you are still having trouble and would like professional advice, then please call us to arrange a consultation with our professional dog behaviour therapist.

For more information, please visit https://www.witsend4pets.co.uk/behaviour.php or alternatively call us on 0116 244 2455 to book a session.

About the author

Dr Shahad Mohammed
Veterinary Physiotherapist
National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists