People always talk about having separation anxiety when their loved ones go on extended holidays or get assigned to work in far-flung areas. But what many don’t realize is that humans are not the only creatures that can experience this feeling. Dogs also develop separation anxiety, and it can become a problem both for them and their owners when the condition becomes severe.
Why do dogs have separation anxiety?
There are several events that can trigger What You Should Know about Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
in dogs. Those that are given up by their previous families and placed in shelters often exhibit this behavioral problem. This is also the case for dogs whose families have moved to a new home and those that have lost a human family member (either because of death or moving away).
Dogs whose owners change their schedule can also experience separation anxiety. For example, if you used to work at home but then get a new job in an office, your dog might get anxious when you leave for work since he’s used to having you at home the whole day.
Separation anxiety versus simulated anxiety
Just because you have a seemingly sad dog doesn’t mean he’s automatically going through separation anxiety. He might be experiencing simulated anxiety, which has similar symptoms with the former but is actually a type of learned dog behavior.
Simulated anxiety happens when the dog mainly wants to get his owners’ attention. For instance, if your dog frequently jumps on you, you might push him away to show that you don’t like his behavior. But, while the action might have a negative connotation on you, your dog might actually interpret it as positive since he got you to notice him. As a result, he’ll develop the habit of jumping on you when he wants your attention.
So how do you tell if your sad dog has simulated anxiety or true separation anxiety? Well, if your dog has the former, he’ll usually exhibit negative behavior most of the time; if he has the latter, he’ll usually behave badly only when you’re out of the house.
Signs of separation anxiety
Different dogs exhibit different behaviors, but there are several common signs that you should look out for. These include:
• Excessive barking
• Pacing in a circular pattern or a straight line
• Digging (particularly in points of exit like doors and windows), sometimes in an attempt to escape
• Chewing on objects other than his toys, or excessively chewing to the point of destroying his toys
• Urinating or defecating, with some dogs even exhibiting coprophagia (eating their excrement)
How to reduce or eliminate separation anxiety
One of the first things you should do is to remove leaving and arriving cues (such as fussing over your dog when you get in the door). Acting like going to work and coming home are a big deal can actually make your dog more anxious, so go through your routine quietly and act like it’s a normal part of the day that your pet should get used to.
If your dog has mild separation anxiety, you can calm him down by giving him an activity toy that’s filled with delicious treats when you leave. This can distract him from your departure since his attention will be focused on extracting his snacks from the toy. It will also make him associate his alone time with a positive experience (i.e. enjoying yummy snacks).
If your dog has moderate to severe separation anxiety, he won’t be easily distracted with food. Because of this, the best thing you can do is to get the help of experts, like us here at Atlanta Dog Trainer. Through our professional dog training services, we can help your pet recover from separation anxiety and develop good dog behavior.