4 Sneaky Signs That Your Dog Suffers from Separation Anxiety

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August 10, 2015 • 169,379 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Separation anxiety is a common problem for many dogs and their owners
  • Signs of separation anxiety include barking or whining, excessive drooling, accidents in the house, and destructive behavior
  • True separation anxiety in dogs is comparable to panic attacks in people. Dogs with the disorder have no control over their anxiety or the behavior that results
  • Behavior modification and desensitization, combined with plenty of exercise and other targeted strategies can help resolve or greatly relieve separation anxiety in most dogs

By Dr. Becker

Separation anxiety is a common problem for many dogs and their guardians. To the uninitiated, it may not sound like a big deal, but it's actually a very serious issue.

Dogs who at first seem just exceptionally eager to see their humans are often brewing a full-blown case of separation anxiety just below the surface. Behaviors to watch for in your dog include:

Many people tend to confuse some of the more subtle symptoms of separation anxiety for signs of love from their dog. In fact, if she hasn't yet had a significant anxiety episode, you might think her over-the-top greeting each time you return from the mailbox is just a sign of her extreme devotion to you.

Another mistake owners of dogs with separation anxiety often make is to assume their pet's destructiveness in their absence is simple misbehavior. They believe their dog is acting out of boredom or anger at being left behind.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

If your dog has genuine separation anxiety, he feels extreme nervousness when you're away. What he's experiencing is the equivalent of a human panic attack he has no control over, and he's likely exhibiting one or more of the following inappropriate coping behaviors in your absence:

It's often easy to know if your dog is having a problem when he's home alone because there's evidence of it – a scratched-up door, a puddle of drool, or a pile of poop on the floor, or perhaps a nasty note from an annoyed neighbor taped to your door.

If you're confused about whether your dog is suffering separation anxiety or simple boredom, keep in mind that the behaviors that result from separation anxiety occur only when you're not around and every time you're not around.

Behavior Modification Tips

The goal in treating your dog's separation anxiety is to reduce her dependence on you so that she can feel safe when you're temporarily away from home. Some of the following suggestions may seem unkind when you're faced with an anxious dog who doesn't want to be away from you, but it's important to remember the agony she's feeling each time you leave. Your intention is to reduce or eliminate her suffering, for her sake.

Helping your canine companion feel more independent can be accomplished with a variety of behavior modification techniques and other strategies.

Curbing Your Dog's Attention-Seeking Behaviors

Desensitization to Departure Cues

If this seems like a long, tedious process, it can be – but it's often very effective. From start to finish can take eight weeks, sometimes much longer. If you don't feel your dog is making good progress or you feel you need guidance, I recommend you talk with your veterinarian, positive dog trainer or a specialist in canine behavior.

Additional Recommendations

Leave your dog with an article of clothing or blanket with your scent on it.

Leave a treat-release toy(s) for your dog to focus on in your absence. Place small treats around the house for her to discover, along with her favorite toys.

Add a flower essence blend like Separation Anxiety by Spirit Essences, Anxiety by Green Hope Farms, or Separation Anxiety Formula from OptiBalance to your dog's drinking water. This works wonders for some dogs. And put on some soothing doggy music before you leave. Homeopathic Aconitum may also help.

Invest in an Adaptil collar or diffuser for your dog. Adaptil is a pheromone and is designed to have a calming affect on dogs. The collar seems to work well for many dog owners with pups suffering from separation anxiety and other stress-related behaviors.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of heart pumping exercise, playtime, mental stimulation, and TLC. The more full her life is when you're around, the calmer she'll be when you're not.

If your dog's separation anxiety is severe enough that she is very destructive when left alone or you're concerned she might hurt herself, you'll need to make other arrangements for her while you work to resolve her issues. A few suggestions:

With time, patience and persistence, most dogs with separation anxiety can be relieved of the worst of their troubling symptoms.

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