Separation Anxiety In Your Dog


Separation anxiety is acute nervous distress that is triggered when your dog is separated from you... and it can make Fido (and you) absolutely miserable. 

Some puppies and dogs are just a bit anxious by nature - they might get scared during thunderstorms, be a little wary around strangers or unsettled by change.

This isn't terribly unusual and if your pet spends his time playing/napping while you're out, then he's probably just fine overall.

BUT if you own a dog who howls, whines, whimpers or barks whenever you're out of his sight, or not at home, then he's definitely letting you know that he's upset - but that doesn't necessarily mean that he has true separation anxiety.

Does your dog consistently act this way when you're gone?.....

  • Pace, run in circles or seem to need to be in constant motion?

  • Whine, cry, howl, bark incessantly?

  • Pant or drool constantly, possibly even vomiting or retching?

  • 'Pee' or 'poop' all over the house, or in his crate, even though he's just 'done his business'?

  • Chew, scratch, dig, tear up and generally destroy your home?

If you answered "YES", to one or more of these questions, then yes it's possible that your dog truly is experiencing some separation anxiety.

But don't panic (Fido's already panicking, we don't need you to join him!), help is most definitely at hand.

I've put together a straightforward guide to recognizing and dealing with your pet's 'issues', so life for you and your anxious little furchild is about to get a whole lot easier!





Why Does My Dog Get So Upset?

The fact that it's not uncommon to see separation anxiety in dogs who are left alone for long periods of time, really shouldn't be a big surprise!

Dogs are very social creatures, and are by nature pack animals.

When left alone, their natural instinct is to 'find' the rest of their pack (yes, that's YOU), and your pup can get very agitated, restless, nervous or even panicked if he isn't able to do just that.

It's natural for puppies to be upset, scared or worried during the first few days (or even weeks) in a new home.

Leaving his momma and siblings, stressful travel, new people, places and pets.... all of these can cause some mild puppy separation anxiety, and this is perfectly normal.

Separation anxiety in dogs is easier to prevent than it is to treat, and there are certain things you can do to help head off potential problems while your pup is still young. As with any habit or behavior, the longer your dog has had it, the longer it will take for him to overcome it.

Sadly, many, many dogs are euthanized or abandoned every year due to the destructive behavior and difficulties associated with dog separation anxiety.

But that should never happen because you can help your pet overcome his fears with a bit of help, plus love, patience and time.

A study in the Applied Animal Behavior Sciences journal, found that around 14% of dogs seen by veterinarians for routine care, show some signs of separation anxiety, and this increases to a whopping 40% when you look at dogs who are being treated for behavioral problems.

True separation anxiety usually produces moderate or severe behavioral issues and your pup will be panicked, or even 'hysterical'.

Mild nervousness, upset or 'complaining' that settles down after some time alone is more likely to be a result of boredom or loneliness - just your dog letting you know he doesn't appreciate you leaving him at home!

Understanding how strongly he feels about being left alone will play a big role in how you treat his worries, and what steps you need to take to get him past his fears.


Signs & Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety In Your Dog

If your pet is naturally a bit nervous, it can be tricky to tell whether or not his problem is severe enough to need help.

Here are some behaviors that might signal mean he has some separation anxiety issues......


While You're At Home:

If a dog is truly suffering from separation anxiety, he will usually show at least some of these signs in his everyday behavior.

  • Velcro-dog syndrome. If he is constantly clinging to you, following you around and 'glued' to your side

  • He demands attention on a continuous basis. Pawing, barking or nudging you all the time

  • He gets very upset if you're out of his sight, and can't be left in another room by himself without getting agitated

  • He becomes nervous and agitated when he sees you getting ready to go out (for example when you pick up your car keys, put on your coat etc.)

  • You see a significant change in your pups' behavior, such as an increase in aggression or shyness, which is not 'normal' for him


When You're Out:

  • Barking, whining or howling that is continuous, and lasts the whole time you're out

  • A constant state of restlessness, shown by behavior such as pacing, circling, pawing and often accompanied by panting and/or shaking

  • Destruction of objects, furniture or even the structure of the house itself. Chewing is often focused on items that belong to the person the dog is closest to (such as clothes, shoes, hairbrushes etc.).

    Gnawing, chewing and scratching at doors, window frames/screens, flooring etc. is usually due to your dogs' desire to escape and 'find' his pack

  • 'Peeing' or 'pooping' several times and in several different areas/locations within the house


Treating Separation Anxiety In Dogs

Although it's not strictly possible to cure a dog of this type of anxiety, there are a whole lot of things that you can do to reduce and even eliminate his distress symptoms... and the problem behaviors it causes.

With time, love and patience you can teach your pup that he needn't be afraid when you leave, and that you are always going to come back home.

Helping him to feel safe in this knowledge will go a long way towards helping him relax.


Behavioral Modification/Training

My Dog Training For Separation Anxiety page will show you tried and true methods to reduce your pups' obsessive dependence and clinginess, and help him learn to relax and amuse himself when you're not home.


Background Noise

One tactic that often works very well is to use a dog relaxation cd or dvd to keep your pup calm, relaxed and entertained while you're away.

Studies and research have shown that a certain slow-tempo classical music can reduce anxiety in dogs by 70 - 80%. That's pretty significant!

You can find the best dog relaxation cd's and more on my Dog Relaxation CD page.


Natural Remedies

There are some excellent natural remedies that can help reduce separation anxiety in your dog.

One of the best and most popular products is Canine Lesstress for Dog Anxiety.

Is a gentle, all-natural herbal treatment that can reduce separation anxiety in your dog (as well as anxiety/nervousness due to other common triggers such as car travel, thunderstorms, veterinary visits etc.)

It's an all-natural herbal formula that has a gentle, calming effect. It also reduces hyperactivity and destructive behavior, while boosting immune function. All without undesirable side effects.

Gentle, safe, effective - it will make both you and your pup feel much better!

Or maybe you want to try dog aromatherapy.

Okay, I know this might sound a little strange, but it works in the same way for dogs as it does for humans..... and when you think about how sensitive a dog's nose is and how attuned his is to the scents of the world around him, it's not surprising that aromatherapy can be so effective.

Click on this link to learn more about the many different dog separation anxiety medications and other natural canine anxiety treatments


Get Him A Thundershirt

A Thundershirt looks like a dog coat, but it's actually a scientifically designed, and highly effective, 'wrap' that uses gentle, constant pressure to calm your dog's central nervous system.

This helps him to relax and to feel safe and secure. It follows the same principle as swaddling a baby.

Recommended by thousands of dog owners, veterinarians and professional dog trainers, this is one of the simplest ways to relieve anxiety in dogs of all ages, sizes, breeds and temperaments.


Things That WON'T Help Your Dog Feel Better

  • Punishing him for his behavior, will only result in an increase in the problems. He's already anxious enough, if you punish or scold he'll be even more upset and afraid. Your dog needs love, understanding and patience if he's to overcome his fears.

  • Adding another pet to your household. Your dog's fears will also generally not be helped by bringing in a new family member. Although to a human it makes sense that he may feel less alone and upset if he has a friend, to your dog it's not as straightforward as that.

    Bringing a new dog or cat into the home is more likely to make him anxious and possibly jealous. Although most dogs adjust to the new member of the household eventually, in the short term you will only be increasing his anxiety and unhappiness.

  • Crate training may or may not make the situation worse. If your dog is destroying your home and possessions while you're gone, a crate is the best, most logical solution. However, if he's never been crate trained or even been in one before (one of the many good reasons to acclimatize any new puppy to a crate) he may react hysterically.

    If you do have to introduce the crate as a new tool, do it as gradually as possible and get him used to it with you at home. Don't just put him in the crate for the first time and leave...he'll associate the crate with his anxiety and reinforce the problems.


Related Pages....



› Separation Anxiety In Your Dog


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