By Richard Keysa
Does this scene ring a bell? You come home from work missing your adorable dog when all of a sudden you step inside your house to what seems like a robbery. Vases dropped, furniture damaged, torn fabrics, and broken hardware. Strange, you do not seem to see any signs of a robbery such as broken windows or busted doors. You go check if your dog is ok, and it is tearing up your pillow. Oh no, you know what happened, your dog was the cause of the destruction of your home, but why? What could be the reason? You don’t seem to mistreat it, so why would it wreck your home?
Dogs are a much more feeling animal. Most dogs love companionship, so separation anxiety can be a much bigger problem than cats. Separation anxiety usually occurs in puppies. New puppy anxiety is when you recently add your puppy within your household, and it may yet to feel comfortable or settled in within the new environment, but you frequently leave the house causing your puppy to feel anxious about dealing with the new environment alone. Destruction of property can occur when the dog feels restless with separation anxiety and tries to find a way out of its current environment. Either from routine or simply a detection of your behavior, your dog can sense when you are about to leave the house and will become distressed or depressed before you leave. You can clearly tell if your dog has separation anxiety when you leave the house. It will start to bark, get your attention, and prevent you to leave. Once you go home however, your dog clings to you like glue and will never leave your side. Although that sounds really pleasant and cute, it only is when you are with your dog. Once you leave it alone again it will be distressed again. It is best to help your dog feel comfortable being alone until you get home to prevent it from being stressed out.
So how can you tell if your dog has separation anxiety? There are several indicators if your dog has separation anxiety.
Indications of separation anxiety
- Destruction of property: Dogs with separation anxiety will definitely try to find a way out of their situation by destroying stuff inside the house in hopes of finding a way out. Scratching of windows, doors, digging, cutting, and ripping things inside the home are attempts to find a way out or get your attention. Please be advised however, no matter how bad it may be, do not scold your dog as it is already distressed with its current situation. Scolding and getting angry at it will make it even more distressed.
- Urinating and defecating everywhere: Even if you potty train your dog, when left alone it might not follow its training due to anxiety. Another indication is if it rarely uses its potty when you are home.
- Barking, howling, or whimpering: When your dog barks, howls, or whimpers whenever you are about to leave, or show indications of leaving, it may hint at separation anxiety. Your dog does this in an attempt to stop you from going as dogs cannot communicate with humans it tries to get your attention.
- Erratic movement: When owners leave their homes, most dogs follow a certain routine. Walking from room to room at a certain time, laying down in different areas, playing with its toys another time, eating and drinking afterwards, all until you come home. If you have a chance, install cameras inside your home to know what your dog is up to whenever you go out. Understanding your dog’s movement can hint at separation anxiety. If it walks back and forth or in circles frequently, then your dog has separation anxiety.
Before concluding that it is separation anxiety, a checkup to the doctor is recommended as there may be a possibility of a physical disease. Always check for incontinence, which means leakage in a dog’s bladder. This may cause urination inside your home to become more sporadic even if it is potty trained. In the case of urination or defecation, separation anxiety may not be the entire cause. Some dogs urinate when they are excited, fearful, greeting others, or even during play. They may even be scent marking to feel more at home not necessarily having anxiety. If you have a young dog, they are still in the phase of chewing, clawing, and biting. Dogs at this age tend to be more hyperactive with its newly formed teeth and nails. Another reason for a dog’s bad behavior can also be akin to boredom. If it is bored at home then it will find other ways to entertain itself. Before diagnosing your dog with separation anxiety, please keep other possibilities for its misbehavior in mind.
So the question is, how do you stop separation anxiety in dogs? There are several things you can do to help your dog be more comfortable alone.
Home remedies for separation anxiety in dogs
- Counterconditioning: Counterconditioning is a process in which a negative reaction to a situation is replaced with a sense of reward. In the sense of separation anxiety, giving a treat to your dog for being alone will make it associate being alone with treats. It will feel ok with being alone because doing so will entitle it with rewards. A great way to do this is to put a treat inside a puzzle toy to occupy him while rewarding it at the same time. Please remember to hide or remove the toy when you are at home, only giving it when you are away to properly associate being alone with treats.
- Leaving suddenly: I know it might seem cold to leave your house without saying goodbye to your dog but this is another way to prevent separation anxiety. It is tough because all you want to do is hug and pet your dog as you leave but doing so will just cause it to feel sad. By acting as if leaving was a normal thing to do, your dog will feel the same and preoccupy itself with its own activities
- A comfortable crate: Crates can be used to create a safe haven for your dog. Depending on the dog, a crate can become its go to place to relax. If you associate its crate with toys and treats, it will feel safer in its crate than the stressful environment it experiences. However, if it does not seem to feel comfortable with its crate do not force it. A good dog separation anxiety crate is one that your dog accepts as its safe haven.
- Exercise: Be sure to walk your dog daily and engage it in physical activities to reduce stress. Play with your dog to make it comfortable in your new home. Once its energy has been depleted it may be less likely to cause havoc within your home due to separation anxiety. Try to play with it before you leave and when you do leave make sure to leave tons of interactive toys for it to play with when you are gone. Great dog separation anxiety toys involve brain exercises as well as physical ones. You can also leave treats in your dog’s usual exploration sites for a pleasant surprise. Doing so will engage your dog into hunting down these treats in your home, giving it a fun activity to do when you’re not home,
- Medication: Some vets may recommend medication to control your dog’s urination, defecation, and depression. Please consult a vet before prescribing your pet a medication; it might not be suitable for it.
- Supplements: Supplements are a good alternative for medication, especially if your dog is still young. Soothing diffusers is another alternative to calm your dog. By using a diffuser, it will make the environment soothing to your dog due to the appeasing pheromone it exerts.
Please note that all dogs are different and are handled differently as well. Some dog breeds experience separation anxiety more than others. Such examples are: Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, German Shepherds, Pointers, and Toy Poodles. The reason why these breeds experience more separation anxiety than others is because they have a companion type gene with humans. Companion type dogs are great friends and can lift your spirits, however because of their social nature they can be depressed if left alone for most of the day.