Separation and the anxiety that goes with it is a heart breaking experience for every pet. No one wants to be separated from their faithful companions for even a minute.
Most people plan their holidays and outings in and around pet friendly places but even then, there are instances in every pet’s life where they have to be alone at some point. Be it for an hour or for a couple of days.
If you think about it, what is it that is causing the anxiety? It is a pet’s exaggerated fear of being left alone. Please do not confuse this with boredom. What is the difference between the two?
Well, separation anxiety begins as soon as you leave the house. Your pet starts dwelling on the fact that you may not return and goes into panic mode. Boredom on the other hand occurs after an hour or two.
Your pet may take a nap, look out the window and then start to get bored. What pet parents need to do is to help their pet enjoy or pull through times of solitude and take the fear and anxiousness out of ‘BEING ALONE’ totally.
Is this something common with shelter animals, home raised animals, adult animals or puppies? It is in all animals that fear separation from someone they love. It is equal in male as well as in female pets whether neutered or not.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
How do you know if your dog experiences separation anxiety? Well, here are a few signs that will tell you your dog is miserable in your absence.
- Urinating and defecating in the house in places prohibited by you
- Eating their own stool is the next
- Barking and howling like a wolf continuously until you return
- Chewing your things and destroying your things by biting or digging into them and hurting themselves in the bargain
- Trying to escape from the pet sitter or your own home when alone
- Incessant abnormal behaviour
Separation anxiety in puppies occurs mostly to those who have been weaned off too soon either to be sold or adopted. Now if you have a puppy that has been weaned off his mother at the right time and then taken in by you, understand just like a human child frets for his mother, so also will your puppy fret for you.
It will show signs of separation anxiety but as he grows and enters adulthood you pup will get bolder, more comfortable and confident of its surroundings and people so it will reduce. Sometimes a few unfortunate ones retain their infant fear of being left alone throughout their lives.
Some breeds of dogs are also genetically prone to anxiety. But then again, that does not mean that love, patience, training and/or medication cannot improve your pet’s situation.
Sadder cases come from dogs who have been brought up in loving, stable homes and then been abandoned by their master. Many go from one foster home to another. In the end they land in kill or no kill shelters. If they are lucky to be adopted, separation anxiety may be the only draw back they will have.
Easing Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Now there are many ways to treat separation anxiety, some of which we’re going to discuss here. If you are one that makes dramatic exit when you leave the house, do not do this. Dogs are smart and know that you are preparing to leave because you do the same action each time. They are already anxious.
Dress up and head out. Do things differently for one. Put on your shoes and walk around the house instead of walking out at once. Let him not be sure of your routine as you leave everyday. There is no need to say bye and hug and kiss your dog. You’re just feeding his anxiety. Just go. Quietly slip away.
Tiring your dog out is a good option. If you have to leave for work how about a quick walk or run with your dog. It becomes exercise for you both. They will come back tired and ready for a nap. You can leave while sleep takes over your pet.
Obedience training is another good approach to separation anxiety in a young dog. Sit, stay and relax are some excellent ones as you comfort your dog. When you see your pet listening and obeying, reward him with praise and treats. Make sure your trainer is familiar with separation anxiety. He could put fuel to the fire otherwise.
Do you have a room that is sparsely furnished? Why not place your dog there when you have to leave with treats, food, water and his toys. Exit quietly once he busies himself.
Come back and give him a treat. As the days pass, go out for longer periods. Your absence will be seen as positive for the dog. You can leave a radio playing softly in the background.
If your pet likes a particular corner or small bed or box and retreats into it, let it. That is good. It is good for your dog to go to a place of security and solace of its own choosing.
Some say a companion in the form of another dog might just do the trick or worsen the problem. The new pet might also be one for mischief and your older pet might just realize that mischief is more fun than missing you! There are pros and cons to that one.
Medication is one and should be considered the last one. Under the guidance of your vet, certain drugs do have a positive effect on the dog. You will see the changes to know the drug is working.
Your pet with have enthusiasm for the day, will not be as depressed as it was and will be relaxed. You may also notice a little lethargy; this is the flip side of medication. This is not a 100 percent cure but well, let us try and be happy for what has improved.