Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs occurs more often than most people realize and is not limited to just a few breeds, sizes, or ages of dogs. Separation anxiety is a dog’s panicked response to being left alone and if not treated and corrected, can eventually result in the deterioration of a dog’s mental and physical health.

Separation anxiety should not be confused with misbehavior. It’s a mistaken belief that when a dog digs up its owner’s garden or pees on the carpet, it’s simply seeking retaliation for having been left home alone. Sometimes the reason for this type of behavior is nothing more than boredom; but before dismissing the dog’s actions as bad behavior, you should consider whether the dog may be in a state of panic because you left the house and it suddenly found itself without the one person it loves the most.

Separation anxiety can also result when a dog suffers a traumatic experience, like a major earthquake or the death of a human or another pet in the same household. In a lot of cases, no single triggering event causes it. Some breeds are just genetically predisposed to separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety almost always includes one or more unacceptable behaviors when the owner is not at home:

* Destructive behaviors, such as chewing pillows or furniture, mutilating plants, or unrelenting door scratching;
* Constant barking, whining, or howling;
* Urinating or defecating in the house;
* Intense, persistent pacing around the room;
* Attempting to “escape” a room or dog crate to the point of self-injury.

Not all unacceptable behavior can be attributed to separation anxiety; in fact, most behaviors cannot. If the owner arrives home to find their dog chewing on a shoe or perhaps the furniture, in all probability the dog simply feels that what it is doing is enjoyable and since no one is home, the time is right for gnawing away uninterrupted.

There are several actions that indicate separation anxiety should be considered a serious matter:

1) The bad behavior occurs every time the owner leaves the house;

2) The bad behavior occurs only when the owner is not around;.

3) The dog visibly displays anxious behaviors before an owner even leaves the house. For example, the dog knows that when you put on a coat it means you’re leaving the house and starts pacing around the room and whining or howling.

Desensitization is a method that’s often used to treat a dog with severe separation anxiety and involves getting a dog accustomed to the owner leaving the house without taking the dog along. You’ll probably need to seek help from a veterinarian or dog trainer if you feel that desensitization would be the best treatment option. Be advised that it usually takes around eight weeks to bring a dog’s separation anxiety under control.

Separation anxiety in a dog has very little to do with the dog’s training or discipline. Its unwelcome behavior results from the severe panic the dog feels when its owner is absent. If the problem is not treated and eliminated, it can cause serious psychological suffering for a dog.

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