Dog Separation Anxiety: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

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Dogs are social animals, so it’s no surprise that they get very anxious when you leave them alone. With your help, your dog can learn to behave calmly and deal better with the separation anxiety, when you leave him alone for a while.

Every time you return home, you are waiting to see what is torn or broken by your beloved dog. Familiar situation? If so, read the tips and tricks from Pets Feed. We cannot say that we absolutely agree with everything that is written below, but different breeders have different opinions. As with every dog, an individual approach. We would be interested to know your way of dealing with this strong emotion of your beloved animal.

Separation Anxiety Dogs

What is separation anxiety in dogs?

The classic symptoms of separation anxiety are destructive behavior, vocalization, urination, or defecation, but individual manifestations such as increased salivation, anorexia (lack of appetite), escape attempts, or depression can also occur.

Destructive behavior is usually directed towards windows, doors and the owner’s belongings. There are dogs that will actively, and sometimes aggressively, prevent the owner from leaving.

Vocalization usually consists of whining, howling, and loud barking.

Locomotor activity is expressed in the fact that the dog rushes about, circles around the owner or trembles immediately before or after leaving. Symptoms are intermittent and may come and go.

Other separation anxiety signs include gastrointestinal distress (lack of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea), self-inflicted injuries (granulomas, licking and self-harm), or self-harm while trying to avoid confinement. Many dogs show very intense excitement when the owner comes back – jumping, running, barking. Some dogs show symptoms during all of the owner’s absences, while others tolerate some of them calmly. Most of the reactions occur when the owner is about to leave.

Note! Your dog needs to get used to it from puppyhood

So that the dog can safely stay at home alone, it is better to start teaching it to this from puppyhood. Dog breeders can be advised to find small boxes for each puppy and gradually train them to sleep in them separately. The puppy will know that he must spend a certain time in the box and his body will adjust to this regime. To make it easier for your puppy to get used to the box, first place the box in a room with people until he gets used to it. The box should be a resting place for your puppy. After all, dogs sleep more than 14 hours a day. Remember, the box is to keep your dog safe – a relaxation haven, not a prison.

Regardless of whether the puppy is accustomed to a separate box or not, the first night in your house will be stressful for him, because he will be away from the canine and human family, which he associated with safety. It’s no surprise that your puppy will call someone for help when you leave him alone. Puppies have a full set of instincts that develop as they get older. If you want to support your puppy’s instinct to cry out for help when no one is around, just run to your puppy every time he whines. Soon you will achieve that your puppy will be hysterical every time he is left alone.

That is, it turns out that you will reward the puppy for his long screams. To avoid this problem, keep away from your puppy when he is making noise. Always wait for him to calm down. To calculate how many hours a puppy can be alone in a box, use this formula: puppy age (months) + 1. In other words, an eight-week-old (2 months old) puppy needs a short break after 3 hours. The absolute maximum time spent in the box is 8 hours (at any age).

To some, the idea of ​​keeping a puppy in a box seems brutal. A small dog cannot control urination and no organism will adapt. It’s just that the puppy will get used to writing everywhere. There is an opinion: everything that can be chewed is treated with an alcoholic solution of levomycetin or an aqueous extract of hot pepper. In addition, the puppy should have a lot of toys, divided into several groups: they get bored with some, replace them with others before leaving. A long walk with active games is required. Well, and of course, order in the house. Before you bring the puppy, do an inspection in the house, that he can harm you and himself if he finds a forbidden thing.

Separation anxiety causes

No specific causes of this disease have been identified. The high social activity of domestic dogs developed as a result of selection contributes to a strong emotional attachment to people and causes stress during separation from family members. Early memories of the puppy, such as premature weaning or severe illness, can also be negatively affected. A dog’s pampering does not matter in the development of separation anxiety.

Separation Anxiety Dogs

Leaving and returning

No matter how old your dog is, he should be calm when you leave and when you come. Many people do it with difficulty. You may feel guilty when you leave your dog alone, knowing that your dog may suffer from separation anxiety. Therefore, you say goodbye to the dog for a very long and emotional time. Or maybe you are worried about what the dog might do in your absence, and you are severely berating the dog in advance. Either way, you are simply increasing the dog’s anxiety. Don’t be tempted. Just walk away calmly.

The same happens to some when they return home – this is an emotional moment. Some people really like it when a dog greets them like crazy. If you encourage this madness, you may run into problems such as a scratched door, damaged window frames, your dog may attack another dog or cat, and damage everything in the house if you delay opening the door even a little. The risk of breaking up separation anxiety fear will be increased.

You shouldn’t indulge your dog if it thinks you are the most wonderful person in the world and expresses its love for you in the craziest way possible. There are other, more appropriate ways in which your dog can express his love and respect for you. Come into the house calmly, and let the dog understand that your arrival is an absolutely ordinary situation, that he has no reason to go crazy.

There is another common mistake: the owners punish the dog for everything that it has done during their absence (a raised tone is also a punishment). As a result, your dog is both happy and upset that you have come home. Your punishment will become completely ineffective, the dog will be embarrassed and frightened by your actions. When the dog sees how angry the owner is, he assumes an obedient posture, the owner thinks that “the dog knows that he did wrong.” No, he doesn’t know. He knows that you are angry and does what the dog is supposed to do to calm the evil master – he obeys. Do not use this method in such a situation, it will inevitably lead to the development of separation anxiety in the dog. Just isolate your dog from objects that it can damage.

Note! Since dogs with separation anxiety are already under stress, punishment is contraindicated.

New house

Separation anxiety most often occurs when a dog’s life changes. A dog that has been taken out of a kennel or has been moved from one home to another is more likely to develop separation anxiety. In general, any changes in regimen can cause anxiety, especially if the new regimen does not meet the biological needs of the dog. For example, changing the schedule may cause your dog to endure a very long time between walks. It is so easy to overlook a seemingly insignificant part of daily life that is actually very important to your dog.

If someone (person or animal) moves from your house to another house, or vice versa – moves into your house, this can also cause the separation anxiety fear of parting. It makes a difference in the daily life of the dog. People can also treat a dog differently. Try to analyze your dog’s routine and needs and figure out what has changed and how you can turn it back.

Extremes

With severe separation anxiety, the dog suffers physically. Such an ailment is most likely a consequence of the fact that you ran up to the dog at its first call. The puppy barks almost nonstop and scratches at the door to get you back to him, even if you’ve been away for hours. Dogs can hurt themselves by getting out of captivity in this way. They can jump through windows, knock out doors, jump over fences and leave the area. Some dogs lose control of their bladder and bowels. This is understandable, because instead of sleeping (in a dream, the intestines and bladder do not bother the dog), the dog is awake and, moreover, worried. If you come home and start scolding the dog after seeing puddles and piles or any damage to the furniture, the next time the dog will worry even more. This is a really vicious circle in which owners and their unfortunate dogs fall.

If your dog is suffering, it is best to seek help from a veterinarian for a prescription of medication to help manage anxiety. But don’t expect miraculous healing. If you don’t take the right measures, medications are useless. Your goal is to temporarily use medications to relieve your dog’s distress and help him relax, and then he will be ready for “innovation.” You may need the help of a behaviorist who can design a behavior change program specifically for your family.

In order for your dog to feel comfortable when he is alone, you must provide him with a comfortable environment in those moments when you are at home. His life should be “scheduled by the minute”: exercise, training, feeding (strictly on schedule), skin and coat care, spending time with family, bathing, medical examinations and much more.

Proper training helps your dog develop confidence and calmness so that he can stay alone at home. Exercise also strengthens the bond between you and your dog, and he feels confident that your family is very strong. This training includes exercise and communication with your dog outside the home (training and practice). It is being away from home together that strengthens your bond with each other. And the fact that you go out together and come back together also helps your dog fight separation anxiety fears. Good, emotional learning is very effective.

It will take a while to train your dog to sit quietly locked up. To reach your goal faster, you can leave the dog in the cage (booth) for a while and give him treats when he is there. Until the dog gets used to the crate, it is very important not to leave it there for a long time, this can cause panic and all your efforts will be useless.

It is also good to leave the house and return after a while, gradually increasing the time you are away, until the dog gets used to the fact that you leave and come. The dog will learn that if you leave, you will definitely come back. Remember to come and go calmly. When you get home, don’t feed your dog right away. Delay this procedure for at least a few minutes. Your arrival should not be associated with food for the animal, and food is very important for him. Feed your dog at least 2 times a day so that separate feeding is not so important to him.

Separation Anxiety Dogs

Treatment

Comfortable living conditions can make life easier with a dog with separation anxiety until it learns to stay home alone. Walking and playing more often is also beneficial, as more exercise often makes pets calmer. If possible, it is best not to leave the dog alone at home, because every anxiety-provoking moment of separation strengthens the stress response, and the dog continues to dirty in the house and spoil things. You can leave the animal in the day boarding house, take it with you to work, hire a nurse. Confusing or eliminating signs of upcoming leaving can reduce anxiety – get the car ready in the evening, go out in casual clothes, mask the care with the sounds of the washing machine while the dog is busy with chewing toys. Gradually getting used to a confined space (cage, aviary, room) can ease the anxiety associated with leaving the owner, but you should not expect immediate results. Medications and pheromones have a calming effect on some dogs, but are not completely effective and the only treatment. Some animals may feel better at the sight of the owner’s belongings, but this is not very helpful in the case of highly agitated patients.

Note! Placing the dog in its “safe zone” and giving the command to relax just before leaving can help reduce anxiety.

Dosed separation.

Stimulating the replacement of an unwanted reaction with a desired one and desensitization can be used to train the dog to stay at home alone and not be alarmed. At first, you should leave for a short time, and each time let the dog understand that this separation will not be the same as usual – some kind of “safety sign” or a special signal. A “safety sign” can be, for example, a switched on radio, ringing a bell, using an air freshener.

All this is done in order to form in the dog clear associations between the departure of the owner, the new signal and good behavior, which will allow him to withstand forced loneliness. The duration of the absence should be increased gradually.

Medication

Pheromones. They are a synthetic product, similar in composition to the soothing pheromone of the mammary glands of a lactating bitch. DAP pheromones have been clinically proven to be successful in correcting destructive behavior in dogs in 85% of cases. The drug restores the feeling of maternal warmth and peace in the dog’s memory, which helps the dogs to feel comfortable and better cope with stressful situations. The advantage of pheromones is a quick effect from the start of use, while most medicines give a therapeutic effect only after a few weeks of use.

There are currently several officially approved drugs for the treatment of separation anxiety. The most stable and predictable effect was noted with the use of seleginine, clomipramine (anafranil) and fluoxetine (Prozac). Any of the drugs must be taken daily, and patients need several months of treatment to get lasting results. Seleginine has been used in the treatment of fear-motivated behavioral disorders associated with separation, when a dog has experienced something terrible in the absence of the owner and as a result associates’ loneliness with separation anxiety fear. Alprazolam may be useful for quickly relieving or controlling stress, but it can be addictive and inhibit learning.

Friend in misfortune

Sometimes, to solve the problem of the separation anxiety, people have another dog – a companion for the worried dog. As a result, you may end up with two dogs that have separation anxiety and can destroy your entire home. It is best to first solve the behavior problems of your dog before introducing another one. Yes, a dog who has had separation anxiety from the loss of a dog friend can benefit from a new family friend. If you are really ready to get another dog and have chosen the right breed, then this might work.

And of course, one of the main reasons for the separation anxiety is the lack of attention of the owners to the dog. If this is the case, remember, the dog is not at fault. Become his true friend and everything will work out.

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