Separation anxiety in dogs

This might be a controversial statement, but separation anxiety in dogs is not as much a dog problem but a human problem. Genetically ingrained to be in packs, separation anxiety in dogs manifests easily because they carry an evolutionary trait from wolves that dictate living in packs and dying with their herd around them. 

Invariably, when pet parents leave their pets for their daily errands and jobs, the dog feels wrenched away from the pack, which leads to separation anxiety.

 Did You Know? As per VetMed, 20 to 40 percent of dogs presented to veterinary behavioral specialists suffer from this disorder.

While this is a very common occurrence amongst dogs, a surprisingly low percentage of pet owners actually do something about it. 

In order to resolve this problem, pet owners must learn how separation affects dogs, what breeds are prone to this anxiety the most, and how to resolve these issues.

 Are you a responsible Pet Parent? Click Here to find that out.

Understanding Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety disorder in dogs is more serious than you think. If your neighbors complain of your dog barking all day when you’re gone or notice drastic behavior change in your otherwise poor angel of a pooch, you must take these hints seriously. Observe if your dog exhibits the following behavior: 

  1. Waiting by the door as soon as you leave or looking out the window for hours. 
  2. Trembling or whining as you prepare to leave.
  3. Barking or howling incessantly. 
  4. Gnawing or destroying the doors, windows, or things close by. 
  5. Uncontrolled drooling or panting.
  6. Pacing across the house, especially the rooms you spend time in. 
  7. A potty-trained dog defecating or urinating inside the house. 
  8. Attempting to escape the cage or kennel in your absence.

Having listed these signs of separation anxiety in dogs, puppy and dog adoptions skyrocketed during the Covid19 lockdowns recently. As people gradually get back to work, unusual situations like puppy separation anxiety are on an ascent. 

With no previous traumatic experiences, puppies must essentially never exhibit separation anxiety. However, when the parents have spent all their days at home for months and then disappear one fine morning, the young ones are bound to be distraught. 

A sudden switch in schedule, moving to a new house, a death in the family, divorce, and numerous other reasons can trigger separation anxiety in puppies and dogs alike, so learning how to notice and resolve this issue is key.

Dog Breeds with the Worst Separation Anxiety

It is safe to say 'with great genes comes great separation anxiety' as the breeds you’re about to read are the most popular in the world. Descendants of the mighty wolves, these dogs find it natural to live in packs, so it is relatively harder to train them to stay alone. That being said, no dog is untrainable. Like the dog whisperer Caesar Milan says, ‘dogs need rehabilitation & humans need training,’ so let’s look at the list of dogs with the worst separation anxiety. 

  1. The Border Collie
  2. The Labrador Retriever
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Jack Russell Terrier
  5. Bichon Frise
  6. Toy Poodle

How to Resolve Separation Anxiety in Puppies & Dogs

When there is a laundry list of potential triggers of separation anxiety, any dog, regardless of breed, age, or gender, isn’t exempted from the trauma. Here’s how to help a dog with separation anxiety

1.   Incremental Time Separation:

Teach your dog to stay alone for 10 mins, to begin with, and gradually increase the time to 30 minutes, a couple of hours until the dog is calm one fine day for 8 hours straight. Remember to be patient and not rush into increasing the time gap.

2. Teach them Goodbye: 

Dogs recognize the way you say goodbye to them every time you leave. Use this information to say goodbye to them but leave a while later. This delay of your leaving will disconnect with the act of saying goodbye, which will keep the separation anxiety at bay.

3. Take Your Dog for a Walk: 

Dogs love walks, and it is always a great bonding experience. Most dogs need the exercise anyway, so a rigorous brisk walk will leave them panting and hungry. Allow him to rest for a minute, feed him water, food, and wait until he’s calm & submissive before you leave. Timing is the key here as you must leave before he regains energy and pays attention to you leaving. 

4. Be the Calm & Assertive Pack Leader: 

Wild dogs and wolves don’t make a big deal before they leave their puppies for a hunt. They simply showcase leadership and leave without hyping up their puppies with love & affection. Likewise, you must train your dog to stay calm in your presence or absence and leave without talking to him, making eye contact, or touching him. This may take a few hours initially, and after a few days, your dog will learn that you return each evening and remain calm.

5. Use Technology: 

Dog owners get creative as many breeds enjoy music, listening to people speak, and even leave voice messages that repeat hourly. Pet monitoring cameras, remote access toys, and live voice transmission are some widely used technologies to keep dogs calm and happy while home alone.

 ALSO READ: Types of Mental Illness in Pets

The Tech that Treats & Monitors your Pooch

Technology can help alleviate separation anxiety in dogs immensely. For instance, the adorable Pet Monitor offered by WaggleCam can not only keep an eye on your pet but also toss a treat when he’s a good boy. Equipped with a 1080p Full HD camera, two-way audio, live picture & video, and even night vision, rest assured that your darling is trauma-free but also entertained & trained. Control the camera, toss a treat, and let your dog listen to your voice while you sit in the office or from vacation. 

Concluding Thoughts

Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious matter which can be alleviated via training and, very rarely, medication - though the FDA has approved only a handful of such drugs. It is important that instead of taking matters into your hand, visit an animal behaviorist or a vet, a trained professional who can help you help your pooch through the emotional upheaval.

-Shefali