Dogs and Separation Anxiety

Some dogs are independent, and they are perfectly content spending time by themselves. Other dogs hate being alone so much that it can affect their mood and emotional health. Many dogs experience separation anxiety, but there are things that you can do to help your dog feel better about being alone.

Why do some dogs have separation anxiety?

A dog that has separation anxiety experiences extreme stress or unhappiness when left alone. Dogs with separation anxiety are unable to be comfortable when away from their family members. This includes when the family is away from home, or when the dog is away from the family: during walking, grooming, boarding, etc.

Any dog can develop separation anxiety. Dog breeds that are usually independent may depend on their human for happiness, and affectionate and social dogs can learn to relax their humans are away.

The exact causes of separation anxiety in dogs varies. It may result from a traumatic experience (abandonment, an intruder, etc.), a lack of training, a move to a new home, or it could be your dog’s personality. Some research suggests that a lack of exercise can lead to separation anxiety for some dogs.

Many dogs experience separation anxiety at some point in time, but it isn’t always cause for alarm. Separation anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with your daily life or your dog’s happiness. Maybe you can’t travel because of your dog’s separation anxiety, or anxiety leads to a low quality of life even though you are only gone for a few hours during the day.

What does anxiety in dogs look like?

Separation anxiety can cause your dog to show unusual behavior:

  • Digging holes in the yard
  • Trying to escape your home or yard
  • Chewing shoes or furniture
  • Excessive drooling
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Urinating or defecating in the home
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Barking or howling

How can you help dogs with separation anxiety?

If your dog already has separation anxiety, you should talk to your dog’s vet. A veterinarian can work with you to identify ways to help your dog with separation anxiety. This may include medication, conditioning, training, or changes to lifestyle such as exercise.

If you’re raising a puppy there are ways to prevent separation anxiety. For example crate training can help your dog feel more comfortable while you are away from the home.

Also, be sure to occasionally leave your dog alone as a puppy. Start with a shorter duration, and gradually increase the frequency and amount of time that you are away. Don’t make an ordeal of either leaving or returning home; a calm and casual greeting and goodbye can help the time spent alone seem more normal and acceptable.