“My puppy makes sad eyes at me when I get ready to leave”…”I have a shredder in my house..it’s my dog! The mess when I got back home, my goodness!!” ..”My neighbor called and said the dog is making their lives miserable with his whining when I am gone”..Sounds familiar? If you see your dog doing this, then my friend, we need to talk! You are getting the separation anxiety cues from your furry friend and we need to take action before it gets worse.
Separation anxiety is exactly what it sounds like. It is the dog being anxious when separated from you and is as close to a panic attack as a dog can have. It is the dog being stressed to be away from the rest of its “pack”. Covid lockdowns haven’t helped much in these situations and the dogs have only gotten really used to us being around them..what greater joy to the dog than having the entire pack with them ALL THE TIME.
However when we do begin stepping out, then how do we ensure the dog isnt in a bad place mentally? We have many tips and suggestions on how to correct this, but it is something you need to act on sooner rather than later. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.
So how do you know if your dog has separation anxiety and is just not being a bored dog? If you consistently see a few or all these symptoms while your dog is left to his/her own devices, then you should know this is separation anxiety
- Peeing/pooping: Many dogs urinate or defecate when left alone even after long walks & after being potty trained
- Barking, whining, howling: Persistent sounds made by the dog when left alone is another marked signal of separation anxiety. Sometimes the dog’s voice is the only company it has!
- Destruction around the house: Tattered clothes, rugs, papers…chewed up furniture, scratch marks on the doors are other indicators of the dog being anxious when apart from the pet parents.
- It could also pace up and down, shiver incessantly or try to escape frequently from the house
However it is imperative we understand what causes the anxiety rather than just disallow the dog from bad behaviour. It’s important to know this so we can also treat the underlying issues with the dog and thus prevent its anxiety. Sometimes it may be as simple as being separated from its favourite people; other times it could be a history of abandonment with the dog, or a change in residence or a recent death or move within the family.
Helping address this anxiety can be done using various measures. A few quick tips are below
- Crate training: if dogs are trained to see the (appropriately sized) crate as a safe & happy place, anxiety in being left alone can reduce considerably. We must, however, be mindful that this does not turn into a place where the dog should stay all day everyday
- Making your entry & exit as uneventful as possible
- Leaving the dog with a job to do like a scavenger hunt or other mental stimulation activities
- Taking the dog out for a long walk and tiring him/her out before being left alone
- Keeping your dog in spaces where they can smell you and if you are gone for longer periods of time, please ensure a friend/family member/sitter/walker swings by to check in on the dog
Remember you can address this with consistency and discipline in the house. Please reach out to a canine behaviourist to give you the best solutions that suit your family and lifestyle to resolve this. So give us a holler and we, at Anvis, would love to help!