Like us humans, dogs are prone to experience separation anxiety when their favorite companion leaves them for a while. One of the most common characteristics of dogs when experiencing separation anxiety is that they become disruptive, destructive, or upset. This can lead to lots of problems for both the canine and the pet owner.
According to ASPCA.org,
Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.
Experts and dog trainers suggest that treating a dog with separation anxiety is the same as training a new dog. When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve their underlying anxiety by teaching them to enjoy their own company or become tolerant when being left alone.
There are multiple reasons for a dog to experience separation anxiety which may include:
the sudden change of guardian or family
change in their usual schedule
Change in residence
Change in household
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
These are the common symptoms shown by dogs who are experiencing separation anxiety.
Urinating and Defecating
Dogs including puppies often urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their owner. Although there are many reasons for dogs to loosen their bowel, one of the most common reasons is separation anxiety.
Barking and Howling
Although it’s common for dogs to bark, it’s still uncommon for them to bark persistently when left alone. This could mean they’re missing their human companion.
Chewing, Digging and Destruction
Many dogs going through anxiety tend to bite or chew on stuff such as a couch, cushion, door frames, windows sills, clothes, etc. If you notice these unusual activities when you get back home then you must consult with your Vet or trainer to check if your dog’s experiencing any form of anxiety.
Dogs are fine until they’re with their owners, the moment they are kept in confinement they immediately escape. A dog with separation anxiety might try to escape from an area where they’re confined when they’re left alone or separated from their guardian.
In such a case, dogs might want to chew their way out of a kennel, door, or window, which can be fatal to their health.
Dogs experiencing separation anxiety often defecate and consume their own feces. If a dog eats excrement because of separation anxiety, he probably doesn’t perform that behavior in the presence of its guardian. You should be wary about this because many dogs eat their own feces because of medical problems that result in a decrease in the absorption of nutrients.
How to treat Dogs with Separation Anxiety?
Here are some of the proven methods and preventive measures to treat separation anxiety in dogs.
Training and Counterconditioning
Deploying the trainers to curb separation anxiety and anxiety disorder in dogs is common. Specific training and counterconditioning are one of the most effective ways to treat separation anxiety in canines.
There are several training strategies owners can deploy to treat their dog’s anxiety. Counterconditioning programs help to condition your dog’s response to the stimuli responsible for anxiety, usually by replacing the anxious or aggressive behavior with a more desirable behavior, like sitting or focusing on the owner. Another related practice is to desensitize the dog to their anxiety. It involves introducing your do the source of anxiety, preferably in small doses and at a decreased intensity. Repeated exposure and rewarding positive behavior can help curb anxiety.
Anxiety Medications for Dogs
Anxiety medication is recommended for canines developing a serious anxiety disorder. We suggest you not to take up antibiotics until you’ve tried alternative methods such as training and counterconditioning.
A veterinarian may recommend medications or natural therapies. SSRIs and antidepressants are occasionally prescribed for dogs with anxiety, including fluoxetine and clomipramine in conjunction with an antidepressant to help your dog cope with the stress.
Using CBD Oil for Dog Anxiety
Cannabidiol Oil or CBD Oil is an alternative medication administered to dogs experiencing anxiety. CBD is a compound found in cannabis and hemp. Many down owners and humans themselves have found using CBD Oil effective in curbing anxiety. Although there is currently no scientific data to prove that CBD oil is effective in treating anxiety in dogs, many dog owners believe it works wonder. Consult with your veterinarian before using CBD Oil. Your veterinarian can help you determine if it might be a good alternative treatment for your dog’s anxiety.
This is more of a preventive or a precautionary measure. You can start by learning your dog’s body language. Knowing when your dog feels uncomfortable or scared such as during thunderstorms, loud noise, outdoor visits, night time, etc, can help determine the reason or their anxiety. It can help you avoid negative experiences and instead use them as a positive training moment. Dogs with anxiety have noticeable physical gestures.
Socialization and Obedience
Socialization is the key to avoid separation anxiety. When your dog is used to seeing new faces including both humans and animals, they’re more likely to enjoy other companies. You can start by taking them to the doggy daycare where they can socialize with other dogs.
Note: Getting your dog a companion usually doesn't help an anxious dog because their anxiety is the result of their separation from you, not just the result of being alone.
Obedience training is another essential tool to prevent or manage dog anxiety. A well-trained and behaved dog is easier to socialize than a dog without training. Obedience classes run by professional trainers can help to desensitize dogs to the situations leading to separation anxiety.
What NOT to Do
You should be careful when you deal with your dog’s separation anxiety. Experts suggest that dog owners must not:
Scold or punish their dog. Anxious behaviors are not the result of disobedience or spite and negative discipline can lead to different behavioral problems in dogs.
Anxiety is caused because they’re upset and trying to cope with a great deal of stress. If you punish them, they are more likely to become upset.