Dogs are emotional animals and are generally ‘one-person’ pets. This means that their allegiance generally lies with one member of the family. Unlike cats, dogs are not very attached to the house. This strong bond between the master and the pet naturally lends itself to separation anxiety when they are away from one another.
Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety tend to exhibit undesirable behavior when they do not see their owners for an extended period of time. Separation anxiety in dogs can be triggered of after long periods of absence like after a vacation. A significant change in routine or a change of place of residence can also cause separation anxiety.
Distinguishing bad behavior from separation anxiety in dogs is simple. A dog suffering from separation anxiety is likely to follow the master from room to room. Sometimes anxious pets act in a strange manner even when the owner is another room with the door closed. Undesirable behavior may include destructiveness like scratching doors and windows, excessive barking, attempts to escape, defecation at inappropriate places, inactivity, lethargy and loss of appetite. In rare cases, separation anxiety in dogs manifests itself in psychosomatic maladies like diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive coat licking.
Although dogs are naturally prone to attachment, it is not uncommon for owners to inadvertently bring about anxiety in dogs. Moving the dog to a new home, taking the dog along to run errands, neglect and abuse are some of actions that can trigger separation anxiety in dogs.
Dealing with undesirable behaviors triggered by separation anxiety requires some element of planning. The planning needs to start as soon as you bring a puppy into your home.
To prevent separation anxiety, avoid situations that encourage an exorbitant attachment. This makes it easier for the pet to live independently. Ensure that the dog does not follow you everywhere. Crate train your dog while he is still young.
Crate training done at a later stage and punishment do not produce the desired results. If you have an adult dog that suffers from separation anxiety, you will need to slowly train him to accept your absence.
You can ensure this by leaving your dog for a few minutes and then returning. Pet and reward him if he does not show any signs of bad behavior. Continue this over time and slowly increase the length of time that you are away.
There are other things that you should do to best avoid separation anxiety in your pet. Try not to feel like you are abandoning your dog when you leave your house. Your dog can sense your feelings, and your guilt will make him more anxious. It may help to let your pet have a few of your old shirts to snuggle with. This will reassure your pet that you are not far away and will be coming back.
Most of the time, providing a ‘safety cue’ when you leave your dog alone proves quite effective. Another safety cue could be a specific toy to play with or leaving the television or radio on or a phrase that you repeat every time you leave the house.
In some extreme cases, relieving stress in pets may become difficult, and you may have to resort to some anti-anxiety drugs to keep your dog calm. These drugs are temporary measures and are not permanent solutions for your dog’s condition.