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?.....
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!
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.
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......
If a dog is truly suffering from separation anxiety, he will usually show at least some of these signs in his everyday behavior.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another scent-related product which is totally safe and very effective against anxiety of all sorts are canine pheromones.
There are a host of pheromone products on the market.
In our family we use them regularly for dogs or puppies who are anxious, stressed or fearful for any number of reasons:
Here are a few more safe and natural options that can help ease Fido's anxiety:
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.
Also take a look at this page to see more dog separation anxiety medications and natural anxiety treatments.