Separation Anxiety

Canine Separation Anxiety is defined as destructive or disruptive behaviors every time a dog is left alone. Dogs are social animals who form attachments to the people they live with, some dogs will panic or become anxious when separated from the person they are most attached too.

Signs of Canine Separation Anxiety:

  • Urinating or defecating while you are out
  • Excessive licking, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea in your absence
  • Excessive whining, howling or barking when left alone
  • Prior to leaving your dog may show anxiety, depression, bark or whine excessively, or follow you around the house
  • In your absence your dog may chew or be destructive in your home
  • Your dog may cause injury to him or herself
  • Escape behaviors such as scratching or destroying doors or windows, digging under fences, jumping fences or opening gates.
  • Exaggerated greeting behaviors

Possible Causes:

  • Lack of Leadership and owner behavior.
  • Lack of exercise
  • Genetics – abnormal predisposition to dependency, pre-existing phobias/anxiety disorders
  • Lack of understanding of expectations (obedience training)
  • Abandonment, or unusually long confinements, or long kennel stays
  • Early separation or deprivation of attachment or social isolation early in life
  • Change in lifestyle, home environment, or absence of family member (divorce, death or child leaving home) or the addition of a new family member
  • Dogs that are re-homed, adopted or purchased from pet store
  • Sudden or significant change in daily routine or time spent with owner
  • Traumatic event experience by a dog when owner was absent or an emotional traumatic experience
  • Cognitive dysfunction (Senility)

Helpful Hints

  • Have you dog checked by a vet to rule out any health issues
  • Use a qualified trainer/behaviorist who can develop a plan specific to your dog
  • Never punish your dog this is not his/her fault it is a behavior issue
  • Don’t treat your dog like and human, provide leadership, consistency, boundaries and limitations
  • Increase vigorous exercise especially before leaving, but give dog chance to relax before you leave
  • Do not make a big thing when your leave or return, do not touch your dog when you return, wait and remain very calm
  • Using a crate will depend on the issues your dog is having, some dogs become worse in a crate, some will be more relaxed
  • Leave a TV or radio on, leave your pet with an article that has your scent
  • Desensitization training for departure cues (picking up keys, putting on coat), as well you may need to consider anti-anxiety medication with the behavior modification
  • Do not spoil or baby your dog, this will only increase its stress and anxiety levels
  • Practice coming and goings for short periods, sometimes it may just mean leaving the room, gradually allowing your dog to become comfortable with being alone
  • Withdraw attention 15 minutes before leaving and 15 minutes upon returning
  • Change your routines so your dog does not notice leaving patterns
  • Obedience train as this will help to build the dogs confidence including sit/down stay program to increase independence at home
  • Leave a Kong toy or other long lasting treat only when you leave so the dog has something new to occupy his/her attention
  • Do not respond to pushy or needy behaviors when you are home. Praise your dog when they are resting quietly
  • Gradually get the dog use to being alone with short departures (this may start with only seconds), as the dog becomes comfortable, slowly increase the time of the absence while the dog remains calm
  • Some with separation anxiety do not do well when locked in unsocialized areas of the home, such as basements or laundry rooms

Separation Anxiety can be resolved but it takes time and patience by the owner. Never punish or get mad at a dog with Separation Anxiety, as the dog has a disorder. Contact a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist to develop the best strategies for your dog.

Above are listed tips that should not be used without the advice of a trainer or behaviorist as each dog is different and a trainer/behaviorist will develop the best plan for your dog. It is irresponsible to implement strategies without the advice of a trainer/behaviorist.