Separation Anxiety in Dogs & How To Detect It
We all know dogs are mans best friend, our little shadows, that literally follow us everywhere we go, sometimes our four-legged friends can become a little too attached and become very anxious when separated from their owners. It can be very distressing and upsetting for them as well as guilt from the owner. Here we look at ways to deal with separation anxiety in dogs and how to keep them calm when left alone.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation related behavior (separation anxiety) develops when dogs are left on their own and have been separated from their owners, dogs are very social animals whether its spending time with their own kind or with humans, pooches like to be in groups as they would have done many of years ago in the wild when being in ‘packs’. Dogs should not be left on their own for long periods of time (4 hours max) but we all know we have to leave the house for short periods of time. Doing this from a young age can make your pup feel more relaxed when you’re leaving the house whilst safe and calm when left alone. Here Pretty Pup goes through the signs, symptoms, treatment and how to deal with a dog with separation anxiety.
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs
There are many obvious signs of separation anxiety in dogs, crying and whining as your leaving the house, or on returning to your house, to see furniture completely destroyed. The first 15 mins are the worse for the dogs, this is the period when your dog will become most upset. Although you can see the physical changes starting to happen you can’t always see the physiological changes.
You will also notice when you arrive home your dog will be very happy to see you (more than normal) as though you’ve been away for a week, but you just think their delighted to see you and adorable how much they actually adore you, but you haven’t seen the excessive saliva, panting, pacing and increased heart rate whilst you’ve been out. Look out for behavior change in your dog when you are reunited, they won’t leave your side and will follow you wherever you go.
Let’s look at other symptoms to be aware of that shows your dog is suffering from separation anxiety:
- Toileting (accidents even though they are house trained)
- Howling/ Barking
- Repetitive behavior
- Excessive salivation
Treating separation anxiety
We recommend that you consult with your vet first to make sure your dog has no underlying health issues, as accidents in the house could be a sign of infections or hormone problems. There are many ways to make your dog feel more secure and relaxed whilst your out such as:
- Giving them a treat – or ‘special toy’ as you leave- toys that you can fill with paste or puzzle toys distract your dog and keep them occupied.
- Keep leaving and entering the house low key- try and ignore your furry friend for the first few minutes showing them leaving and entering is not a big deal
- Calming supplements – calming tablets and plugs in are a great way of keeping your dog calm and relaxed throughout the day and night, their natural herbs are naturally sedative.
- Minimise noise – if your dog is likely to bark at noises outside such as cars or people try putting them in a quieter room when left alone or leaving a radio/tv to overshadow the other noises. You could even close blinds/curtains to prevent them ‘looking out’ for these sounds so they are able to relax much quicker.
- Avoid punishment
- Dog sitter – A great way of someone to keep an eye on your dog throughout the day when you are not there, they can take your dog for a walk, play and make sure they are happy tiring them out allowing them to relax much quicker.
If nothing still seems to be working for you and your dog is still showing all signs of separation anxiety then consult with your veterinarian, they will be able to create a plan for you and your dog to help the problem but also help find the underlying problems that could be causing your dog to behave in this manner.
This leads us to the next question about separation anxiety, there could be many factors that contribute to this behavior:
- A new member of the family
- Death of family member/ pet
- House move
- Fear or scared of something inside the house
- Boredom – it is important to keep your dog mentally stimulated, and give them regular exercise a dog who is happy and tired is less likely to become anxious when left alone.
Dog separation anxiety at night
It’s lovely having your little pup in bed with you, but for whatever circumstances you can no longer have your furry little friend in your bed:
- Keeping you awake all night
- Gets overprotective of their owner/ or people with you
- Territorial aggression
what was a nice experience going to bed for your dog has now turned into a nightmare, they were probably excited, looking forward to going to bed too, but now they’re in their own bed downstairs alone, pretty scary right?
Well, this is what separation anxiety at night is for dogs. Dogs love routine and love being with you so when their routine is suddenly changed and their alone it can become very daunting for them. They know bedtime is soon approaching and they start to get scared, their heartbeat increases, they start salivating and pacing. You put them to bed and you know once again its going to be a sleepless night as they cry/howl and whine through to the early hours. Here are a few ways to help your dog overcome dog separation at night:
- Don’t react to them – as much as this can be difficult as all we want to do is comfort our dog the best thing to do when they are demanding your attention in this situation is to leave them. they will eventually give up and relax, then fall asleep.
- Don’t put them in their bed straight away – you need to gradually keep distancing them away from your bed- start with them sleeping on the floor then gradually outside of the room and so on by doing this you’re keeping their anxiety level’s down and gradually making the process. For most dogs, this issue wouldn’t be an issue and they will quite happily sleep in their own bed but dogs with separation anxiety this is a massive deal to them.
- Don’t make going to bed a big deal – When bedtime is approaching don’t make it a big deal to them, they already know when bedtime is approaching so you want to keep them as calm as possible. Try leaving toys filled with food or something that will keep them busy, also try walking them or tiring them out before bedtime as they are more likely to sleep better.