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Separation Anxiety, and How it Can be Treated?


Have you ever returned home to a dog frantically bouncing off the walls and attacking you with all their affection? Have you returned to damaged furniture and shoes? Does your dog raise hell when they suspect you’re about to leave the house?

This behavior, when it occurs frequently, can mean that your dog has separation anxiety. It’s important to understand what separation anxiety is, and how to recognize a dog with separation anxiety. 

When their behavior seems worse than normal and their antics seem to be extreme, rather than routine dog mischief, this could be a sign that they’re dealing with separation anxiety. What is dog separation anxiety? Separation anxiety can occur when dogs are hyper attached to their owners. Dogs like this often undergo extreme stress from the time their parent leaves them, till they return. While dog separation anxiety symptoms can differ from one dog to another, if they act like they are afraid to be on their own, you probably have a case of separation anxiety on your hands.

Before you label your dog as one dealing with separation anxiety, make sure you have properly understood their behavior. Examine their behavior while they’re around you. If they are equally misbehaved even under normal circumstances, then it’s not a case of separation anxiety and your dog probably just needs some more training.


Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

There is no single definitive feature of separation anxiety. Dogs exhibit separation anxiety in different ways. However, if you notice multiple symptoms occurring frequently, it might be time for a mental health break for your dog or pup. How can you tell that your dog suffers from separation anxiety?

  • Attempts to escape captivity that are desperate and may result in significant damage. Anxious behaviors such as pacing, whimpering, or shaking when you're away or about to leave.

  • Excessive wailing or barking

  • Destructive behavior, such as gnawing or digging, especially around doors or windows.

  • Household accidents, urinating on the carpet for example.

  • Swallowing, drooling, or panting excessively.

Most pet parents are oblivious to the existence of separation anxiety in dogs, so don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t notice it sooner. You could’ve mistaken these traits as inherent behavioral issues, and though that this was simply your puppies personality. Some owners have had to face the unfortunate incidence of having to give away their dogs due to these issues, and in almost all cases the dogs are the ones who suffer the most. These reasons give away the need behind this being such such a vital topic. As pet parents it is our responsibility to care for our pets as much as possible, and without diagnosing the issue behind your pup’s behavior it is not possible to find a solution for it.

What are the causes of separation anxiety?

If you’re wondering whether dogs and puppies can have separation anxiety, and whether it is normal for them to do so, the answer is yes! There are certain factors that can trigger separation anxiety in dogs. One of these factors can be traumatic events in their past, which is often the case with rescue dogs. Other than that, sudden major changes in their life can also trigger separation anxiety. A sudden switch in their schedule, the sudden absence of a loved one, or moving to a new place, may all lead to separation anxiety. Some studies have even shown that the lack of daily exercise can lead to separation anxiety in dogs. Not all puppies have separation anxiety, some dogs can process such situations better than others.

If you think your dog has separation anxiety, its important to get to work so that it doesn’t get any worse, and you know how to take care of your pup in his moments of suffering.

How can you tackle separation anxiety? 

  1. Crate Training - This is an important step in the socialization of your pup, and it allows them to become comfortable alone. This is not a cruel or unhealthy practice when conducted the right way. In fact, it can allow your dog to find a safe haven where they feel comfortable with or without you around. Gradually making your dog spend longer periods of time alone in the crate, while they also have some positive reinforcement, allows them to become independent. Check out our previous post on crate training for an in depth guide on how to perfectly crate train your dog.

  2. Counter Conditioning - You have to teach your dog that new experiences can be rewarding. While this might sound a bit like a cliche which we often hear in movies, it is possible to counter condition your dog to enjoy your absence. You could leave your dog a treat they highly value right before you leave. This way, he’ll associate your departure with getting something he loves. Another thing you can do is desensitize your dog to the clues that you might be leaving. For example, pick up your car keys, and instead of leaving, let your puppy or dog see you go about your usual routine. Or, every time you touch your car keys, give your dog a treat they love. This will change their perception of those actions and make them less of a trigger.

  3. Exercise and Playtime - Exercise cannot cure separation anxiety, but the appropriate amount of physical activity for their breed and their age can help them feel more calm and content overall. When they have enough play time and can exercise their senses, it helps alleviate the stress that they might be harboring.

  4. No Long Goodbyes - It certainly is challenging to resist picking them up and showering them with affection after looking at your dogs wide eyes gaze, in the long run, it’ll be helpful if you don’t overly indulge them during goodbyes, and when you greet them upon returning home. If each departure and return is an elaborate emotional affair, it will make your dog perceive it as a major event, and not just a routine occurrence. So although it may be hard, when you’re leaving the house, play it cool and don’t spend too long saying goodbye. 

  5. Medication - If after all your efforts, your dogs still shows no improvement, then you should consult your vet. In case your vet sees fit, he might recommend medication for behavioral issues. Be extremely careful about what you give your dog, and do not medicate them without making sure your vet has thoroughly examined them and recommenced the safe medicines.

We hope this post makes your goodbyes with your favorite companion easier, and the reunions even more joyful.

Arun Kumar

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