Dogs with Separation Anxiety
Living with a dog means knowing that you'll always have someone to keep you company. That's part of the fun of having a dog; they're always excited to see you come through the door, whether you've been gone for an hour or all day. But when does your dog's desire to be close to you become a problem?
While separation anxiety has been widely studied for decades, it has recently become a hot topic. Because a global epidemic has altered our everyday living and working patterns, many experts and dog owners fear that the rates of separation anxiety in dogs will skyrocket when regular schedules are resumed.
What is the definition of separation anxiety?
Canines are more prone to separation anxiety than cats. When a dog is separated from its owner or left alone, it can suffer from separation anxiety. It's an issue that causes a lot of pain for both people and dogs because it can express a variety of uncomfortable behaviors, it's challenging to treat, and it can induce stress and guilt in the owner.
Dogs with separation anxiety is a stress response rooted in a dog's or puppy's instincts to stay with the pack. Even though the dog or puppy is safe at home, the accompanying aggravation and unhappiness generate a feeling of lost or trapped. It's only that your dog's fear is of being alone. Pet owners should recognize that the conduct they're witnessing is unintentional; your dog isn't acting this way out of spite or for any other cause than fear.
Dogs, like humans, are social beings, so, understandably, they're happiest when they're with their family, but an attachment issue can cause separation anxiety in dogs. Dogs are overly connected to one person or people in general and respond negatively when they are not present—alternatively, they fear being alone.
Separation Anxiety Symptoms
As they see you take your keys and walk out the door, many dogs appear unhappy or resigned. When left alone, most dogs cope; however, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will show signs of actual worry. Separation anxiety in dogs can range from moderate to severe, depending on your dog and the intensity of their separation anxiety.
Panting or whining, pacing, excessive licking, following their owners around, inability to settle in a crate, or barking are mild examples of separation anxiety. At the same time, more severe behaviors include pawing or biting at the crate door or causing crate destruction, chewing at window coverings or blinds, urinating or defecating, excessive drooling, house or furniture destruction, heavy breathing, and actual attempts to break out of the disturbance in the home, excessive vocalization, and incorrect elimination were shown to be the most common behaviors associated with separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety has several causes.
While the exact origin of separation anxiety in dogs is unknown, various things have been identified as potential triggers. Multiple rehoming incidents, the death or departure of a family member, another traumatic event, or even a hereditary susceptibility are all possible causes. Or as potential elements in the development of separation anxiety, disturbance in connected relationships, and various attachment figures. Puppies form a solid biological attachment with their moms and siblings, and this bond frequently translates to a bond with their new owners.
What to Do
First and foremost, if you feel your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, speak with your veterinarian about your worries. Your veterinarian will rule out any other possible causes for your seeing behaviors and assess whether medical intervention is necessary. Vets and trainers frequently collaborate to help dogs with separation anxiety overcome their fears.
If separation anxiety is diagnosed, owners must change how they interact with their pets to break the cycle and build new behavior patterns. The dog will not simply decide to be quiet and relaxed when he wakes up; this is a skill that must be taught daily.
Maintain a positive relationship with your dog on a long-term basis.
Separation anxiety is often a symptom of a more significant problem in the dog-human relationship, and sadly, pet owners can unwittingly contribute to some of these problems.
Training your dog to be independent during the hours you are together is vital in handling separation anxiety and a healthy connection.
When a dog has unrestricted access to affection, attention, hugs, furniture time, belly rubs, and baby talk, it might become reliant on such incentives. When those items are abruptly removed because the human has left the room or house for an extended time, the dog cannot remain calm and trust that it is safe to relax until their owner returns. Make sure you're setting limits with your dog in your daily life and making times when you're apart while you're still at home.
Additionally, owners must ensure that they are not encouraging their behavior to prevent. Because dogs learn actions in fundamental patterns, we must be cautious about the patterns we establish in them as owners. If your dog is pacing, whining, or barking, and your pet cuddle, start using cutesy baby talk or significantly lengthen your goodbyes before leaving the house; you're rewarding those behaviors. Also, punishing your dog for being disruptive or eliminating in the house due to their nervousness will make them more scared.
Begin with a slight separation.
Start small if your dog is already reacting strongly to your leave by performing activities that signal departure, such as putting on shoes and then hanging around at home. Repeat this process to try to break the first unfavorable association.
You can then continue teaching your dog to sit and remain as you walk away, lie down when you're out of sight, and reward them when you return.
When dogs and puppies with this illness are isolated from their owners, they must learn to self-soothe. While the guardian remains at home, training will typically begin with low-intensity separation scenarios employing gates, pens, and tethers, to gradually increase the intensity as the dog or puppy shows that they can manage it.
Experiment with low-key departures.
If you decide to leave, don't make a huge issue about it. When you go home, wait until your dog has settled down and is calm before showing affection. It may be difficult to pretend you aren't happy to see your dog, but preventing a raucous reunion is good. You want to emphasize that your arrivals and departures aren't enough to increase your energy and emotions.
Exercising is essential.
Many exercises produce serotonin, which has a relaxing and mood-stabilizing effect. It is necessary to get your dog enough exercise and provide an outlet to be happy and relax when needed.
In the end, dogs are similar to humans because they are complex and unique; therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to separation anxiety. Separation anxiety training for dogs is also dependent on the severity of the condition. Dealing with severe separation anxiety, according to many specialists, can be difficult. Because actual separation anxiety is a severe case of behavior and a long-term process, many experts advocate consulting your veterinarian for treatment alternatives in the most extreme situations.
Is it Possible to Prevent Separation Anxiety?
While it may not always be possible to completely prevent your dog from becoming apprehensive when you leave the house, there are some steps you can do to make your dog feel safe and secure when you must leave.
While you're at home, set some limits.
Dogs, like children, depend on regularity and structure in their daily routines, so divide your dog's day into two categories: interaction and non-interaction. That means you get to decide when your dog gets a walk, playtime, potty time, snuggle time, training time, or outings. They should be crated or relaxing comfortably when you're not intentionally interacting with them. This keeps their minds from racing or worrying, building confidence in them.
It is critical for puppies to experience low-intensity separation from their owners safely and early in their lives; in fact, separation from their owners should become a daily ritual for puppies. Otherwise, kids may be surprised and distressed when they are left alone at home for the first time, triggering these behaviors. Of course, because dogs demand so much time and attention, anyone who does not have the time to care for a dog properly should avoid getting one.
When we're home more than usual, it's tempting to lavish our dogs with attention and affection. It's even cuter when your puppy insists on being petted all the time. However, if such behavior is unrestrained, it might lead to more severe issues. The greatest thing you can do is make sure that the dog's bad behavior isn't rewarded with play, positive attention, or anything else the dog could find enjoyable. This entails removing that form of attention and adding something that the dog perceives as discouraging, such as removing them from the location or transferring them out. If the dog wants to enter your area later, it can do so more respectfully and appropriately.
Crate training gives a sense of space and security.
Many experts stress the necessity of crate training for dogs to avoid instilling anxiety in your dog in the first place. When used correctly, the crate provides a safe, cozy place for your dog to unwind while you're busy or away.
Crate training should ideally begin when your dog is a puppy or when they first arrive at your home. Instead of being utilized as a punishment, the crate should be used as a haven. Getting a crate is to allow a dog to become comfortable in a location away from you so that they are not constantly on your lap. Because a dog who has only known a life in which you are present runs a significant chance of developing separation anxiety.
On the other hand, a crate should never be used as a substitute for spending time with a dog or puppy or a location where they are kept because their owner lacks the time, energy, or dedication to care for them properly. Isolation is not suitable for a dog.
When you are ready to depart
Provide some benefits while you're away. Leave a safe diversion for your dog, such as a treat-filled puzzle toy, play music, and make sure your dog is comfortable to relax. Put the toys and treats away when you get home so they are not associated with your absence.
As a precautionary strategy, practice low-key goodbyes. Don't even bring up the idea that leaving is a huge problem.
Separation anxiety in the aftermath of a pandemic
Tree Hugger/Dan Amos
As working from home became increasingly common, many individuals adopted dogs, who provided constant companionship and more walks than they could handle. It was a win-win situation for two sociable creatures in need of friendship during difficult times. But, if dogs seek predictability, what happens when that pattern varies and owners aren't there 24 hours a day, seven days a week? These changes are common separation anxiety triggers.
What is likely to happen is that many households will create an environment conducive to anxiety. It may appear alright now that you have a dog that interacts with you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, if you don't give your dog enough playtime, engagement, and separation time, it can cause problems.
Maintain that separation period as much as possible to give yourself and your dog the best chance of avoiding problems down the road. This does not involve physically confining your dog in a crate or a separate room. But it does imply establishing ground rules that say, "OK." I'd like you to join me in the kitchen or while I'm watching TV.
When leaving your house without your dog, try to keep a regular schedule. Maintain that level of detachment when you're at home, within the boundaries you've established.
It's more important than ever to practice time and place. Engaging and allowing your dog into your personal space and practicing separation is beneficial.
Medications Could Be Beneficial
If your dog has a behavior problem, consult your veterinarian before administering any medication. Consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
Medication, especially in severe cases of separation anxiety, can be extremely effective. Some dogs are so distressed when separated from their owners that treatment without medication is difficult. Anti-anxiety medication can help a dog cope with some seclusion without becoming distressed. It can also hasten the healing process.
A dog with mild separation anxiety may benefit from medicine alone, without behavioral changes. The drug helps the dog become acclimated to being left alone, and he retains this new conditioning while he is gradually weaned off the prescription. On the other hand, most dogs necessitate medication and behavior modification.
What to Avoid
Do not reprimand or punish your dog. Anxious behavior is not motivated by disobedience or spite. They're all signs of distress! He's upset and attempting to cope with a great deal of stress. Your dog exhibits anxious behaviors when left alone. If you penalize him, he will likely become even more enraged, and the problem will only grow worse.
Because the origin of separation anxiety is still unknown, no precise actions can be taken to prevent it. However, you can do a few things to help your dog get the most out of his alone time. As soon as you see signs of separation anxiety in your dog, consult a veterinarian and a trained trainer. Remember that whether or not your dog has separation anxiety, training and maintaining a solid bond should be a lifelong endeavor.