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April 28, 2010 at 2:48 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

How to Recognize Dog Separation Anxiety

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

Separation anxiety is defined as a dog's extreme fear or dislike of isolation. This often results in misbehavior from the dog. Separation anxiety is the number one reason why dogs misbehave. Dog separation anxiety is often compared to a human's panic attack.

Why are Dogs Prone to Separation Anxiety?

Dogs are naturally social creatures. Newborn puppies will create a bond with their mother and their litter mates, and when a puppy is separated from its family, it will immediately attach to the new owner. From this new bond, a relationship built on trust can blossom. The problem begins when the puppy develops a dependency on its owner. As the puppy grows and is not taught independence, it will develop stronger dependencies on its owner. Just like humans, dogs can become too dependent on others. The moment separation must happen, the dog experiences separation anxiety and begins to misbehave. Some dogs may have suffered a traumatic event that resulted in separation anxiety. These events can include anything from deprivation, removal from familiar surroundings, a sudden cessation of familial closeness, a change in the family unit, or unexpected absence of the owner.

Can My Dog Sense My Imminent Departure?

Yes, it seems as though some dogs are able to sense when you are about to leave them. This is evidenced by their actions. Dogs may become jittery or restless, and they may not allow the owner get away from them in the home. They may begin to whine or bark, or they may show signs of aggression when the owner tries to leave.

How to Recognize Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs have specific behaviors they exhibit when they experience separation anxiety. Some dogs may demonstrate all of the following behaviors, while others may exhibit only one or two:

  • Defecating and urinating in improper area
  • Displaying baneful manners
  • Barking and whining incessantly
  • Becoming hyperactive
  • Scratching at doorways and windows to locate the owner
  • Chewing on anything they can get their teeth into
  • Showing signs of depression
  • Decreased eating and drinking
  • Extreme actions include diarrhea, self-mutilation (chewing or licking themselves), or vomiting

Are These Behaviors from Separation Anxiety or Another Problem?

Dont let the same responses confuse you: look at the timing. If your dog begins to act out when you're preparing to leave or shortly after you depart, or delays greeting you when you return home, the behaviors are clearly the result of separation anxiety. If the behavioral problems continue, you may need to take your dog to the vet.

How to Help Your Dog Overcome Separation Anxiety

First, don't try to diagnose separation anxiety yourself. Seek advice from your veterinarian. You can modify your own behavior slightly to help your dog feel more comfortable. Go on short trips, and grab your keys so your dog knows you're leaving. Increase your time away from your dog gradually. Avoid prolonged greetings or farewells with your dog, and don't let your dog roam the house while you're gone; set aside a regular, confined area with sufficient provisions. When exercising, take your dog to new places, other than your home or yard, to play, run and jump. Lastly, practice praising rather than punishing your dog, because punishment tends to only increase anxiety.

Photo Credit: Ed.ward

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1 Comment

  • I know that my yorkie, Lucky, hates when we are away from him more than a day. He knows when we are at work as we come home at night, but when we left in March to visit our family in Oregon, that morning I noticed he went in our bed and laid there without moving and just looking at us, I already knew he knew we are leaving as he never ever stays in bed in the morning without us, he runs around and plays. Throughout that week he barely ate and played I was so worried about him I could not wait to get back home to him.

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