Dogs and Separation Anxiety – How to Help your Pooch

“Dogs and separation anxiety” is a common topic among dog parents. My fur baby has been suffering from separation anxiety for many years, however she has gotten better thanks to some training tips that I have followed

Dogs are very social animals and have been our companions for thousands of years. They love spending most of their time with us and some of them really suffer when left alone.

In this article, I would like to outline some key points about separation anxiety and advise on things you can do to help your dog improve.


What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a behavioural problem that affects many dogs and it is caused by the fear of separating from the people they’ve become attached to.

Affected dogs can become extremely anxious when it is time for the owner to leave the house, even for short periods of time. Their discomfort is shown in certain types of behaviours that can even end up being destructive.


Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Here is a list of the typical symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs:

  • Excessive salivation
  • Barking and howling
  • Whining
  • Chewing and destroying
  • Scratching at walls, doors and floors
  • Attempting to escape
  • Urinating and defecating

 

It is worth noting that separation anxiety can be either true or simulated.

The latter is displayed by dogs who have learned that they will get attention when exhibiting a certain behaviour. Even being told off becomes some sort of reward for their behaviour.

Simulated separation anxiety is fairly easy to overcome with some training, a good amount of exercise and a strong leadership.

True separation anxiety on the other hand, imposes a greater challenge. You will have to thoroughly examine your dog’s behaviour and come up with a rigid action plan.


Things you Can Do

There are so many things you can do to make your pup feel better, however this will take time. It really depends on the age of your dog and how long they have had separation anxiety for.

Here are some steps to follow in order for you to help a dog suffering from separation anxiety:

Do Not Make a Big Fuss About Leaving the House
We hate seeing those big eyes staring at us when we leave, so sometimes is very tempting to try comforting our pup. However, leaving and returning into the house should be part of the routine and should not become a big deal for your dog.

Help Them Get Used to Your Absence
Spend at least 5 minutes a day teaching them that you will always come back! Leave the house for 5 minutes without greeting your pup nor making eye contact, go for a walk around the block and come back without giving any attention to your dog.

Crate Training
Some dogs really benefit from crate training. If you teach them to view the crate as a safe place, you can ask them to go into their crate right before you leave, so that they can feel cozy and protected while you are out.

Please note that when doing crate training, you should do it naturally. Do it gradually. Let your dog go into the crate and leave the gate open at first, then try to close the gate when they are ready. Don’t make the dog go into their crate only in certain specific situations. You need to mix things up, so that the dog does not think you are trying to punish them for something 🙂

Change your Routine
Dogs recognise and remember your habits. If you usually wear your coat first, put your shoes on and then grab the keys before leaving through the front door, try to change your routine the next day by grabbing the keys first, putting your shoes on, wearing your coat and leaving via the back door.


How Indoor Pet Cameras Can Help

Having a pet monitoring system can really help you understand what your dog’s behaviour is like while you are away.

Not knowing what symptoms they are presenting, may pose a challenge when having to draw an action plan to improve your dog’s behaviour.

It can also be very helpful to have recorded videos of your dog’s behaviour, so that these can be shown to a dog behaviourist in the event of you deciding to seek for help.


Dog Behaviour Specialist – When to Seek for Help

Dog behaviourists can really help find the root cause of the problem by visiting your home and observing your dog in their own environment.

They will also observe your behaviour towards the dog and advise on things you should to help your dog.

It is important to seek for help when the dog has established a behavioural problem that you have not been able to rectify on your own. The longer you avoid seeking for help, the worse your dog anxiety could get.

If you have just adopted a dog whose background is unknown, it is best to seek out for help immediately. An expert can advise on an action plan to take in order to prevent the dog’s behaviour from getting worse.

I would advise you look for local behaviourists who have an established clientele, so that you can ask for references and check if they have ever helped other dogs who were showing exactly the same behaviour as yours.

You could also ask your local community. Facebook is a great tool when it comes to reaching out to local people by using specific groups.

You might find a group dedicated to the town where you live and I am confident the community will be more than happy to give you recommendations 🙂

 

 

 

 

Author: Cristina

13 thoughts on “Dogs and Separation Anxiety – How to Help your Pooch

  1. Hey Cristina,
    Man I hate it when I get those big sad eyes staring at me, I swear all dogs look at me that way! Makes me sad which is why I end up looking the other way before leaving.

    I got the training down but one thing I cannot reduce is the whining though. Is there another way to reduce whining that I haven’t heard of?

    1. Hey Riaz,

      Thank you for your comment 🙂

      Yes, those sad puppy eyes break my heart all the time! So hard to resist! If I could, I would take my dog everywhere!

      Do you mean reducing whining when you leave the house? If so, you just have to take 5 minutes every days where you go for a walk by yourself and leave the dog at home, so they can get used to you being gone.

      Start with 5 minutes for a few days and then increase the time. Whining will automatically go once your dog has understood that there is nothing to worry about when you leave and that you will always come back 🙂

      I hope this helps!

      Cristina

  2. Very rich post,

    I have a French Bulldog and he is a very character filled pooch! I have noticed several of these symptoms with him when we leave the house. Whether it be for a day of work or even just 2 minutes to run to the store. 

    I have found that being calm and acting like it’s not a big deal has helped the most, as you suggested. Do you suggest crating your pup while being gone or not?

    Cheers,

    Nic

    1. Hi Nic,

      You can try a few things to alleviate your dog’s anxiety:

      1. Start off with leaving the house for just 5 minutes a day and slowly increase the time. Do not make eye contact with your dog neither when you leave nor when you come back.

      2. Before you leave, give the dog something they really like. It could be a particular toy they only get access to when you leave the house.

      3. Change your routine every time you leave. One day you might grab your hat first and then put your shoes on, the next day you might want to invert these actions. This way your dog won’t see a particular set of events as a cue to you leaving.

      4. If you decide to crate train your dog, make sure you don’t present the crate as a “punishment”. What I mean is, ask him to go into the crate at random times of the day, even when you are in. Put toys in and treats and start off with leaving the crate’s gate open. Let him see the crate as a nice, safe and cozy place to be before you try to leave him in there when leaving the house 🙂

      I hope this helps! Please feel free to ask further questions!

      Cristina

  3. Hi Christina,

    Thanks for providing this article on dog separation anxiety and the sign that you need to look out for. to know your dog may be suffering from this. A colleague of mine uses an Indoor Pet Camera to keep an eye on their two dogs and recommended it to me. Would you suggest that as the first step prior to going to a behavioural specialist?

    1. Hi Nate,

      A behavioural specialist can definitely help but they can be expensive.

      I would first write down a list of behaviours I would like my dog to improve and then see if I can find some good information online 🙂

      Cristina

  4. I believe form her behavior that my dog has a bit of separation anxiety. Especially if we leave the house for a long time.  If we come back within a certain time (less than 2 hours or so) she will be just happy to see us when we come back.  

    However, lately, she has started to get in the bathroom and either chew on old discarded tissues, or she will grab anything with a certain scent, like a lip balm, and she will destroy it completely.

    We used to crate her when she was younger, but we have stopped using the crate completely.  Now we close the bathroom door, but she has gone in the garbage can instead.  Should we bring back the crate? I see that you have written to get them to think it’s safe and cozy, however we thought that it meant more of a punitive method. The problem is probably us then. How should we proceed?

    1. Hi Denis,

      I think your dog might now see the bathroom as a punishing place.

      Let your dog in the bathroom at random times of the day, while you are in, both with open and closed doors. Mix it up a bit and then start leaving the dog alone in the bathroom for 5 minutes at the time, while you are still in the house. See if doing all of this a bit at the time and at random times will help your dog forget about the pattern “bathroom = dad is leaving”.

      Please let me know how it goes 🙂

      Cristina

  5. Hello Cristina,

    Again with you. I find it very interesting when dogs suffer from separation anxiety. 

    The truth never notice it in the many dogs I’ve had. 

    Maybe I did not notice or they did not notice me. It is usual for me to be absent for several days, for example when I go on vacation to the South of my country.

    My arrivals are full of love, many kisses and immense joy.

    Regards! Claudio

    1. Hey Claudio,

      Unfortunately, even our fluffy friends can suffer from anxiety.

      This can be improved though with training, love and patience 🙂

      Cristina

  6. Christina, I reallyagreed with your ideas about how to help dogs with their separation anxiety.Knowing the difference between Simulated Separation Anxiety and True SeparationAnxiety, is something parents of both human children and animal children wouldbe kinder to learn. I have years helping humans with all kinds of anxiety, and hve loved two dogs with severe anxiety. The Chihuahua I love now has terribleanxiety in thunderstorms, and separation anxiety. He is fourteen now and weeither take him with us or get a sitter. Keep up the good work, Janice😊

    1. Hey Janice,

      Thank you for your comment 🙂

      You would be surprised at how many dogs suffer from separation anxiety! I tend to drop mine off at the dog carer’s house if I have to be out for longer than 4 hours.

      Bless your little dog but I am glad you know how to keep him calm in certain situations 🙂

      With regards to the thunderstorm issue though, have you tried one of those CDs which contain the sounds dogs are usually scared of, so that he can get used to them? Something like this.

      Let me know what you think!

      Cristina

  7. Hi!

    This is such an informative post. You cover everything from tips to follow for leaving your dog to seeking help when nothing seems to be working.

    I personally live the idea of having a pet camera. The cool thing about some pet cameras is that they can dispense treats and allow interaction between you and your dog.

    My pooch has suffered from separation anxiety as well. I found that getting her a playmate has helped tremendously as opposed to leaving her home with no one to keep her company.

    Great post and thanks for sharing!

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