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Does Your Dog Have Seperation Anxiety

Updated on May 25, 2011
Beagles often suffer from separation anxiety
Beagles often suffer from separation anxiety

You come home from running a few errands and your house is a mess. Drawers are open, garbage is strewn about, and there's a stinky mess on the floor. And the culprit causing all this destuction sits on your couch-- the dog. Why did your canine companion turn your house upside down? Separation anxiety.

What is separation anxiety? Some dogs become overly attached to owners or family members, and when the person leaves the dogs becomes extremely anxious. This anxiety leads to distress behaviors including destruction, excessive barking, house-soiling or inactivity.

Common behaviors associated with separation anxiety include:

  • Following owner from room to room. As the owner gets ready to leave, the dog follows the person around and starts to display signs of anxiety -- excessive barking and running about, or house-soiling.
  • During departure time the dog may salivate or pant profusely, refuse to eat, become destuctive or become quiet and withdrawn. Most often these behaviors happen within twenty minutes of the owner's departure.
  • When the owner returns, typically dogs with separation anxiety get overly excited. They may whine, jump up and race around the house for 5-15 minutes after your arrival.

Strategies for dealing with separation anxiety:

  • First, make sure behaviors are caused by separation anxiety, and not something else.There many possible reasons for a dog's bad behavior. For example, a puppy may soil the floor because it's bladder just isn't very large yet. Some dogs may bark excessively because of territorial intrusion. Or some dogs become destructive because they're confined in a crate or a small room all day. Identifying the cause of the behavior is key to determining whether your dog truly suffers from separation anxiety.
  • Use some preventive measures. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise. A dog who does not get enough exercise becomes anxious because he has not been given the opportiunity to wear off his energy. Taking your dog for a good long walk before you leave can be very helpful in some cases.
  • Provide environmental enrichment. When you do leave make sure your canine has had his needs met-- he has had an opportunity for exercise, social play and affection. Then your canine feels less anxious because you've shown him the attention he needs.
  • Gradually train your dog to accept your absence from the home. Over an extended period of time, leave your dog alone for short bits of time. Start slowly and gradually increase the length of time you are absent. For example, the first day leave your dog alone for 5 minutes a day three times a day. The second day increase the amount to 4 times a day for maybe 7 minutes. This process will take time and effort on your part and should be done over a significant span of time. After a couple weeks time decrease the number of times you leave the house during the day, but increase the length of time you are gone.

The goal is decrease you dog's anxiety, so you don't have to deal with the bad behaviors. Remember your dog is anxious and punishment will just make the dog more anxious and likely make the behaviors worse. Trying to prevent your dog's anxiety and dealing with anxiety by training your dog to accept your departure will make life much better for both you and your pooch.

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