Dogs with Separation Anxiety- How to Help


Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can be common in dogs. Sometimes dog owners may not even realise it is separation anxiety and instead pass it off as disobedience as symptoms can include barking, howling and even destructive behaviour. Here we explain some of the signs and how to help dogs who suffer from separation anxiety.

What are the signs of separation anxiety?

The signs of separation anxiety can vary significantly depending on the dog. Some signs can be your dog suddenly becoming frantic and visibly distressed. Signs can include:
• Destroying furniture
• Salivating and panting excessively
• Barking, howling and whining
• Trembling
• Pacing around the room
• Having indoor toilet accidents
• Ignoring their food
• Trying to escape the room or their crate
Causes of separation anxiety
As with the signs of separation anxiety, the causes can also vary. Here are just some of the causes:
• New parents / New Home
• New socialisation patterns
• Change in routine
• Change of surroundings
• Lack of training
• Death of a pet friend or companion
• Boredom
• Genetics

How to cope

Treatment for separation anxiety is essential as it can help your dog remain calm and happy. Although some of the symptoms can be frustrating for the owner, you mustn’t get angry with your dog too soon. Try and identify the reasons behind the behaviour before getting mad.
Here are some of the methods you can use to try and calm your dog down.

Change your routine
Start using a different door, or put your coat on and grab your keys but do not immediately leave the house. Dogs can quickly identify patterns and they will start to associate things like putting your shoes on as a sign you are about to leave. Changing your routine can sometimes help reduce this connection.

Exercise your dog before you leave
Exercising your dog at least 30-minutes before you leave can help relax your dog and tire them out.

Create a personal space for your dog
Having personal space is important for everyone – even dogs. When you are in the house, try and encourage your dog to be alone for certain periods of time. This can help them learn to enjoy having their own space and this can ease the transition when you are away from the house for longer.

Have background music
It can help some dogs to have music in the background. Soothing nature sounds can help relax your dog and even help them fall asleep.

Don’t make a big deal with hellos and goodbyes
Although it can be sad to leave your dog try not to make a big deal about you leaving, so avoid getting emotional and slushy when you say goodbye. Doing so can reinforce the fact that the dog is about to be alone and they will be aware of this. If you do say goodbye, make sure you say it way before you leave so that your dog doesn’t link it to you going away. Although it is difficult, try not to talk to them, touch them or give them eye contact for a bit before you leave to avoid this connection.

Don’t leave your dog alone for too long
Although sometimes it cannot be avoided, especially if you work full time. But try not to leave your dog alone too much as it can make the symptoms worse. If possible take them to work. If this isn’t allowed, then consider hiring someone or asking a relative or friend to check on them to break the day up.

Medicine
The medicine route should only be explored once you have tried other methods that have failed. Contact your vet and discuss at length your dog’s symptoms before considering medication.

Work with a professional
If the behaviour continues, it may be worth contacting a dog training and behavioural specialist. They can help you with new methods to try and ensure you are on the right path.

It can be a common problem for pet parents for their dog to be disruptive or even display destructive behaviour. Although they may not all be due to separation anxiety, this is something you should consider. The methods above are just some of the things you can try to ease your dog’s anxiety. If none of these work overtime, then get in touch with a professional for more help and to understand the reasoning behind their behaviour.

About the author

Dr Shahad Mohammed
Veterinary Physiotherapist
National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists