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Dogs are friendly and the most faithful human companion for many years now. They own a significant and irreplaceable place in the heart of their human friends. Well, whose soul will not feel gratified to see that wagging tail of a happy dog excited to greet you at the end of a rough day? Right?
Yes!! A common sight that all pet parents share after reaching home is seeing their loving dog waiting desperately to greet them warmly. No human can ever do that for us, and I wonder how dogs get so excited every time they see their human friend arriving back home.
No doubt, dogs are full of love and loyalty for their humans, and they never leave a chance to show their feelings, but the situation can go the other way too.
Most pet parents usually complain about their dogs behaving destructively when left alone at home or when they are not around. Their dog bark, howl, defecate, urinate, chew, dig, or try to escape when they are not around. Although such behavior indicates that your dog needs to be taught basic house manners, but these may also indicate the symptoms of general anxiety and distress your dog is going through.
Yes!! You read it right. Anxiety and distress prevail among dogs. Just like human beings face anxiety issues, dogs do too.
The most common cause of anxiety among dogs is the fear of separation or staying alone. This is usually referred to as separation anxiety.
Not familiar with the situation of separation anxiety in dogs? Don’t worry. By the end of this article, you will know all about it and the ways to treat separation anxiety.
Meaning of separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a condition in which dogs exhibit unusual and stressful behavior when left alone or separated from their owners.
While some dogs suffer from separation anxiety, others don’t usually show such behavior, and the reason is still not known.
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
There is no one symptom to indicate that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety. There are many and this list of the various signs may help you understand that your dog is suffering from the problem of separation anxiety.
- Urinating and Defecating Inside the House
Some dogs start urinating and defecating indoors when they are left alone or separated from their owners. If your dog does the same while you are near, then he may not be suffering from separation anxiety, but if he does it while you are gone, then it is a sign that he needs help.
- Chewing and Scratching
If you find your shoes, furniture, or other items chewed up or destroyed after you come back home, then it might be an indication of your dog suffering from separation anxiety. Dogs usually show destructive behavior when they do not find their owners nearby.
So, if you confront such behavior of your dog, then do not get angry with him, but understand his situation, act patiently, and provide him the needed support.
- Howling and Barking
A dog with separation anxiety might start barking and howling after they are left alone at home. This behavior is persistent and is not triggered by anything else, except when they do not find their guardian around.
Dogs may try to escape from a place where they feel confined when left alone. They may try digging or scratching the doors and windows to escape, and this may also result in self-injury, such as cuts in front paws, broken teeth, damaged nails, etc.
Such behavior is not exhibited by the dogs when their guardian is present, but only when they are left alone.
- Unusual Walking Patterns
Some dogs start to walk along a specific path or in a fixed pattern when they are left alone or when they do not find their guardian around. While some dogs move in a circular direction, others walk back and front in the same direction.
If your dog does not exhibit the pacing behavior in your presence, then it probably means that he is suffering from separation anxiety.
Reasons Causing Dogs to Develop Separation Anxiety?
When it comes to the reasons behind the emergence of separation anxiety in dogs, the evidence is not yet clear. Still, the situations mentioned below have been associated with the development of the problem.
- Changed Schedule
An unexpected change in the schedule of leaving your dog alone (when and for how long) can lead to the development of separation anxiety. For instance, if a dog’s guardian stays home all day but then they start staying out of the house while leaving their dog alone at home for around 4 to 6 hours every day, the dog might develop separation anxiety.
- A Change of Guardian/Family
If a dog is shifted to a shelter, abandoned, or given to a new family, then there are chances that he might develop separation anxiety.
- Loss of a Family Member
The sudden absence of a family member (human or another animal friend) either due to death or moving away may trigger the development of separation anxiety.
- A New Home/Place
Dogs are highly sensitive, and they may find it difficult to adjust to a new environment( in case you move to a new home/place). Such moving away and adjusting to a new environment might result in the development of anxiety in them.
To make moving easy for your dog, you may like to read: Make moving house with your pet as seamless as possible.
Tips to Treat Separation Anxiety
- Try and avoid making big deals with your departures and arrivals. Calmly say goodbye to your pup while leaving the house and greet him with patience when you come back.
- Leave comfort cues for your dog like your worn-out clothes before you leave the house.
- Establish a word or an action to tell your dog that you will come back.
- Leave items to keep them distracted and busy like their favorite toys or treats for them to hunt.
- Confine the dog in an open place.
- Tire them out before you leave. You may do this by taking them on a long walk or engaging them in physical and mental activities.
Things to Avoid
- Do not punish your dog for showing destructive behavior since it will only worsen the situation.
- Getting a companion for your dog. This won’t help because your dog needs you and not anyone else, and this too, might make the situation worse.
- Crating your dog because they may injure themselves while trying to escape out of the crate.
- Leaving the TV or music system on unless used as a safety cue.
Separation anxiety in dogs is widespread, but not all pet owners are aware of it. Most pet owners start getting irritated or angry at their pets for showing such behavior. Instead of getting mad at the dog, one must try to find out the reason behind such unusual behavior and then provide the needed support and care to the dog.
Now that you know about one of the most common reasons behind your dog behaving differently, I hope you will handle your four-legged ball of fur with patience and care.