Pets Are Important Too

The 411 on Canine Separation Anxiety

by Aurore Fontai

A dog can bring joy, love, and excitement to your household, but your new family member will require a great deal of time and energy. From feeding and grooming to training and providing your dog with medical care, these tasks are essential for your dog's health and wellness. Unfortunately, certain conditions may arise even when you properly care for your dog. Considering that separation anxiety affects an estimated 20 percent of the 80 million dogs in the nation, understanding this condition is key to helping your own dog. Using this guide, you will understand separation anxiety and learn the best options for treating your dog's condition.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

While surprising for many dog owners to learn, separation anxiety is an actual disorder that not only affects your dog's well-being, but potentially your home and belongings.

You will most likely realize your dog has separation anxiety after leaving home for a period of time. The separation may cause your dog to feel lonely and act out on this emotion. When you return home, you may notice the following:

  • Damaged belongings—Your dog may chew on furniture, pillows, toys, clothing, shoes, and even plants. You may also notice scratches, chew marks, dings, and dents on windows, walls, and doors.
  • Bathroom accidents—Many dogs with separation anxiety are unable to control their bowels or bladder, so bathroom accidents are common. Your dog may urinate or defecate all over the house while you are away.

Dogs with separation anxiety will act abnormally while you are away, but you will not be able to see this behavior. However, understanding what your dog goes through while suffering with this form of anxiety is helpful.

Your dog will constantly pace around the home, moving back and forth until they see you again. They may also bark, whine, and howl while you are away. If you confine your dog in a crate, room, or section of a room while they are away, their anxiety may increase their desire to escape these spaces.

Treating your Dog's Separation Anxiety

If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, schedule a veterinary consultation. After documenting your dog's behavior while you're away and completing a full physical exam to rule out medical problems, the veterinarian will most likely use desensitization to treat the anxiety.

Desensitization is the most common treatment for canine separation anxiety, but this method of training will take some time and effort.

To get started, make your dog accustomed to hearing your car and house keys jingle. Pick the keys up and shake them periodically to test their behavior. Dogs with separation anxiety will begin to pace, bark, or whine when hearing these keys jingle. Jingle the keys repeatedly through the day, over a couple of weeks. Each time you jingle the keys, your dog should feel less anxiety and show less erratic behavior.

Once your dog feels at ease while you're shaking your keys, begin walking to the door and turning the doorknob. This is an additional element to desensitizing your dog. Repeat the motion repeated over a few weeks, allowing them time to feel less stress when completing this act.

An estimated 3 million dogs are on currently on anti-anxiety medications in the United States, so you may choose this option for your own dog's separation anxiety. Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications are effective for many severe cases of anxiety, but a veterinarian must monitor your dog's dosage to ensure they are seeing healthy benefits.

Separation anxiety is a real condition that deserves proper understanding and medical care. Using this guide, you will understand the dangers of this condition and learn the best treatments for your own dog's separation anxiety. For more information about separation anxiety in dogs, speak with a veterinarian.