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What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs? Does Your Dog Suffer From It?

What is separation anxiety in dogs? Does your dog suffer from it? Here is my experience of living with a dog with separation anxiety, the signs to look for and what you can do to help your dog if you suspect he or she is suffering from separation anxiety.

Dog looking out window

Dogs with separation anxiety may chew through walls to get out and find you.

Many years ago, I adopted a beautiful four-month-old puppy from a couple who kept him in a dark, hot garage 24 hours a day. They rarely let him out, even to relieve himself. It was four horrible months for this little guy, so when I brought him home he was immediately attached to me and panicked every time I had to leave him. The first two weeks weren’t too bad as I had taken vacation time to help him adjust to his new life with me, but I did notice that when I left the house, even for a brief time, he would panic.

I once ran up to the local store, leaving my puppy gated in the kitchen, only to receive a call from my alarm company stating my alarm had been triggered, again. This time the poor guy had pulled the microwave off the counter. One of the previous times he had knocked over the cabinet where I kept my china. He ate through the drywall by my front door and urinated and defecated all over my house, no matter how many times I took him out. All because I left him.

A well-meaning friend suggested I crate him. He turned that crate into a twisted mass of metal. It was incredible he didn’t physically hurt himself. I cannot imagine what torment that poor dog went through.

I hired a trainer to help me help him, but he needed more than a trainer. This was 30 years ago, before I was a trainer. Today, trainers, veterinarians, and behaviorists know so much more about how to help dogs with separation anxiety. This is not to say that there is an easy fix for separation anxiety, there isn’t. But you can help your dog if you are willing to put in the work.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?

  • Getting upset as you are getting ready to leave.
  • Overly excited when you return.
  • Urinating and defecating in the house while you are away even though they have had ample opportunities to relieve themselves before you left.

    Dog destroying item

    Dogs with separation anxiety may become destructive

  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Panting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Destructive behavior
  • Vomiting

What you can do to help:

  • First things first, see your veterinarian in order to make sure there isn’t some underlying issue that is mimicking separation anxiety.
  • Feed your dog just before leaving the house. This can help your dog associate something positive with your departure.
  • Keep your departures and arrivals low key.
  • Provide your dog with lots of interactive toys to keep them occupied.
  • Sometimes adding another dog to the family can help, but there is no guarantee.
  • There are medications that may help, but they are not long-term solutions.
  • Hire a dog walker or pet sitter to keep your dog company while you are away.

    Sad dog

    A dog with separation anxiety may be helped if you are willing to put in the work

One or more of the solutions above may help your dog cope with their separation anxiety. Be patient, it may take some time to figure out what works best for your dog.

Do you think your dog suffers from separation anxiety? Contact us to see how we can help.

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