Separation anxiety in dogs is the most common type of stress and anxiety problem. It can cause an otherwise gentle dog to be high-strung and destructive. This page looks at the possible causes and symptoms, how to deal with this dog behavioral problem, and how natural herbal and homeopathic remedies can help alleviate anxiety in dogs.
Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety?
Ours did. When we got Hana (a rescue who got separated from her mom when she was 3 weeks old), she was very clingy and would become very anxious when we left her alone. What we found after getting home from work was generally a battlefield ruin: shredded cushion covers, pieces of splinters from the legs of our chairs, a big hole in our tatami mat... You got the picture.
Dogs that are properly trained and socialized can handle being left alone as long as they get lots of TLC when their owners return.
On the other hand, dogs with separation anxiety get freaked out the moment their owners have left home. A dog with separation anxiety whines or barks when left alone. He also paces, and becomes destructive (e.g. the dog may chew a hole in your sofa or carpet, or may even break through doors and windows.)
A dog is said to have separation anxiety when he shows signs of distress when you leave him alone.
This feeling of distress usually begins when he sees signs of you getting ready to leave, e.g. when you are putting on your shoes or picking up your keys. Some dogs also show signs of anxiety when you put them in a room and close the door behind you.
Separation anxiety can be attributed to a lot of causes and factors. For example:
Usually these dogs are nervous and not confident, and when left alone, they may think that they are being abandoned again. They get anxious thinking that they may not be able to survive.
Dogs like routines, and if their routines are upset and changed, sometimes they feel anxious.
Be sure to take your dog for a check-up therefore if your normally calm dog suddenly shows signs of separation anxiety.
With this type of problem, even house trained dogs will urinate and defecate inside the house while you are away. In addition, they will most likely show some of the following symptoms:
If you repeatedly come home to find evidence of these behaviors, there is a very good chance that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
It is important to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible in order to find out the underlying root cause of this phenomenon. Very often, identifying and dealing with the root cause (e.g. a change of diet) will be sufficient.
If your veterinarian has ruled out that your dog's separation anxiety problem is caused by an underlying physical problem, try different ways to deal with the problem:
To train your dog, first just open and shut the door (without you actually going anywhere). Once your dog is fine with that, you can open the door, step outside for a moment, and quickly come back in.
If your dog does not whine or get upset, remember to praise her a lot and give her a tasty treat. This positive reinforcement is very important.
Finally, you can step outside and stay outside for a short time before re-entering the house. The time you stay outside is then slowly increased. You need to take it one step at a time and repeat each step until the dog does not react to it before you move on to the next step.
In addition, it's helpful to keep everything very low key - do not make a big deal of your exits from or entrances into the home.
Although it may be hard to do it every day, try to take your dog out for a long walk or jog before you leave your dog home alone.
The aim here is to tire him out, so the walk or run should be brisk and at least 60 minutes. You may want to consider biking or scootering with him if your energy level is not as high as your dog! You may even want to consider getting your dog a treadmill.
Hopefully, by the time he is finished with the toy, he will have forgotten about you leaving! Also, give him several chew toys that you rotate every few days to keep him entertained.
Herbs are excellent in calming nervous dogs suffering from separation anxiety. Herbs are mild and non-addictive, and they do not cause drowsiness after use! Even better, some nervous-calming herbs are nutritious tonics, providing additional support to our dogs' nervous system.
Homeopathic remedies are effective in the quick relief of symptoms associated with dog anxiety.
Click here for more information on using natural remedies to treat separation anxiety in dogs.