Dogs of all ages can experience separation anxiety when separated from their owner. Young dogs and even older dogs that might have some hearing or sight problems may feel anxious when their owners are away from them. You may need to understand that chances are you are probably the most important thing in your dogs life. You may now begin to realize that when a dog that is routinely used to constant human companionship and attention is left alone, the dog can experience some anxiety about where their owner might be going. Your dog may not understand why he cannot go with you and he may worry about whether or not you will be coming back home to be with him.
What behavior may your dog display if he is experiencing separation anxiety?
The most common behaviors associated with separation anxiety include the following:
Barking, whining, crying or howling
Destructive chewing or digging
Inappropriate elimination (urination or defecation), even if the dog was otherwise successfully house trained
Scratching at doors or windows
Excessive licking of hair, circling the room or pacing
Loss of appetite, depression or inactivity
The dog may have an over attachment to his owner. The dog may get too dependent on their owner.
An example: Your dog makes a daily habit of following you from room to room whenever you are at home together. My dad used to have a very cute, long haired, male chihuahua and he would follow my dad everywhere that he would go in the house all day long. If my dad was in the kitchen cooking, or folding laundry, or watching television his chihuahua would be right with him. He would constantly be right by my dad's side almost every minute of each day, if possible. When my dad had to go out of the house to do a few errands, his chihuahua would always give him a dramatic, overwhelming greeting as soon as he would return home.
What are some other characteristics or factors regarding separation anxiety?
The behavior occurs mostly when your dog is left alone in the home and his problem behavior usually starts soon after you leave him in the house.
The behavior may occur whether your dog is left alone for just a little while or long periods of time.
Your dog may display a reaction of depression or anxiety when he realizes that you are getting ready to leave the house. Actions like picking up your car keys or purse, turning off the TV, or putting on your coat can trigger the anxiety behavior.
But it is very important to realize that any destructive type of behavior or house soiling that may possibly occur with separation anxiety are part of a dog's panic reaction. Your dog is not trying to punish you for leaving him home alone.
What are some things that can precipitate separation anxiety in your dog?
A dog that is routinely used to constant human companionship and attention is left alone for the first time.
A dog that may have suffered a traumatic event in their mind, such as time spent away from home at a veterinary hospital, dog shelter or boarding kennel.
Anxiety may develop if there is a significant change in the family's routine or the death of a family member or other pet.
Some other situations that may precipitate anxiety for your dog are if one of your dog's favorite family members leave the home and go away to college or get married, or if your work schedule changes dramatically, or if the whole family moves to another home or a new town. Dogs are actually creatures of habit and any changes may bring about some anxiety.
Some ideas that may possibly help minor separation anxiety:
Don't be very dramatic when you are leaving or returning to your home. When you return back home you can calmly pet your dog and reassure him.
When you have to leave your dog in the house, you can let him have something of yours like a piece of clothing that smells like you.
You can make a reassuring habit of using a certain word that you routinely use every time you leave that tells your dog you will be coming back home.
Possibly, if the dog could hear the sound of a radio or television, it may be calming.
Sometimes having their safe and appropriate dog toys available for them will be a little distraction for them and help to keep them busy.