When you leave your dog at home to head into work, run some afternoon errands or go out to dinner with friends, it is not uncommon for your dog to whine some right after you leave. However, if your dog consistently becomes stressed while it is home alone, he or she may suffer from separation anxiety, which according to the American Kennel Club, 14 percent of dogs are affected by.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
While each dog is different, the most common signs and symptoms of separation anxiety include:
· Urinating and Defecating – If your pup is potty-trained and goes to the bathroom in the house when left alone, this could be due to anxiety.
· Chewing and Destroying Objects and Furniture – Many dogs with separation anxiety will chew on random household objects and furniture, such as remote controls, table legs, door frames and pillows while you are gone. If a dog chews and destroys things while you are near, then it is most likely not separation anxiety and is a behavioral issue.
· Constant Barking – If you notice your Fido is persistently howling as soon as you leave and still is once you return home, this is a sign he or she is probably stressed due to being alone.
· Attempts to Escape – A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from his or her kennel or confined area while you are away.
If your dog displays any of the behaviors listed above when you are away from home, he or she may struggle with separation anxiety. It is important to rule out any health concerns or other behavioral issues that could be causing these issues. You can consult with your veterinarian to determine the official diagnosis.
How to Treat Separation Anxiety
At Metro East Humane Society, we have found that there is a variety of approaches to help ease a dog’s anxiety while he or she is home alone. It is important to try different tactics to determine what works best for your pooch.
· Puzzle Toys or KONG® - When you leave the house, give your dog a puzzle toy or a KONG® filled with peanut butter to occupy them for a while. This method can help create a positive association with being alone, as your dog will be excited for this. As soon as you return, take away the toy or KONG®. Then, the dog will know it is a special alone time treat.
· Short Separations – It has been found that leaving dogs home alone for short periods of time can help reduce their levels of anxiety. Start with a short trip to Starbucks or the gas station and then gradually increase your time away over the course of a few weeks. · Crate Training – For some dogs, a small, confined space can create feelings of safety and comfort. However, other dogs may experience added stress in a crate. In order to determine if a crate could help his or her anxiety, monitor him or her closely while in the crate. If your dog barks persistently, pants or frantically tries to escape, then the crate is most likely causing more anxiety.
· Playtime – Many dogs’ behavior problems can be treated with physical stimulation. When you know you are going to be leaving the house, be sure to play with your dog or take him or her on a walk beforehand. If your dog is exhausted when you leave, they are much more likely to rest and sleep rather than roam.
· Cues of Departure – If you notice that your pup begins to show signs of anxiousness while you are getting ready to leave, try exposing them to those cues of leaving without actually leaving. For example, put on your shoes or jacket and just watch TV or grab your keys and then go sit on the couch. This repetitive technique can help because it will teach your dog that these actions won’t always lead to you leaving. Then, he or she won’t get as anxious when you do them.
If these techniques do not work, do not fret. There are other practices you can implement. If possible, take your dog with you when you leave the house. Or, if you know you will be gone for a long period of time, ask a friend or family member to stay with your dog or drop him or her off at a doggy daycare. For severe cases of separation anxiety, medication may help. However, always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any type of medication.
When it comes to separation anxiety with your Fido, try to remain patient. It is important not to punish your dog, as their behaviors are out of distress not disobedience.
To learn more about Metro East Humane Society and our program and services, visit: https://www.mehs.org/about.