What is Separation Anxiety?
Causes or Contributors
of Separation Anxiety
Fear of abandonment caused by prior re-homing. Second-hand dogs,
dogs adopted from animal shelters, and rescued strays, are particlarly prone to
develop separation anxiety problems.
Changing one's daily routine, from where the dog spends most of its day with
the owner, to where he spends most of his day alone.
Change in dog owner's work schedule or daily routine.
Moving to a new home, and/or other major changes in environment.
Typical Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
When people experience stress or anxiety they often attempt to relieve this
stress by chewing their nails, chain smoking, drinking alcohol,
etc. Dogs have similar stress-relieving behaviors which typically include
one or more of the following:
Vocalizing (barking, whining, screeching, and/or howling)
Destructive Chewing (ie: Furniture, pillows, owner's underwear, TV
Eliminating (urinating and/or defecating) in the house within a short time
(between 5 to 60 minutes) of owner's leaving home without dog. (In some
severe cases, diarrhea may occur.) This is often a separation anxiety
issue, not a housebreaking issue
Obsessively following owner from room to room
Acute alertness to owner's every move
Vigorously attempting to escape enclosure (crate, room, or apartment)
Excessive drooling or panting when left alone, particularly when enclosed in a
crate or small area
Self-mutilation, caused by excessive chewing or licking of the paws or tail
Any other obvious signs of distress that occurs whenever owner leaves dog
Seperation Anxiety and its behavioral symptoms
is often exasserbated by insufficient outdoor exercise (see tips below).
After-the-fact discipline is NOT recommended for housesoiling (or anything
Preventing Separation Anxiety
Get your puppy used to being alone for brief --
then gradually longer -- periods of time. Don't reinforce your dog's neediness
for constant attention, particularly when your dog attempts to get attention by
whining, barking, jumping on you or pawing. Give attention and affection
for good behavior.
Remedies for Separation Anxiety
Give your (fully innoculated) dog plenty of outdoor exercise and stimulation.
BACKYARD EXERCISE IS NOT ENOUGH! Constructive outlets for your
dog's natural energies, such as leash walks, puppy laydates, agility or
obedience training, fetching a ball, romps in the park or local dog run (if
your dog is friendly with other dogs) are all good ways to tire your
dog out,which will help reduce your dog's stress, destructiveness and
Keep both farewells and return greetings very low-key, even to the extent that
you ignore your dog for 10+ minutes before leaving and 3-5 minutes upon
arrival. Offer low-key greeting once your dog settles down. This
reduces the emotional roller-coaster many dogs experience when their owners
come and go. After all, if you kiss, hug and say sad goodbyes every time
you leave your dog, then celebrate your reunion at the door each time you
return, the void of being alone without you will make things that much harder
for your dog to be without you.
Don't reward barking, whining, jumping, pawing or hysterial behavior with any
attention, affection or interaction (not even eye-contact). Reward calm, quiet,
and non-dependent behavior with low-key praise and attention.
Temporarity reduce affection for 2-3 weeks, saving the majority of your
affection for when your dog complies with a command.
If you spend all day petting, pampering, fanning, and peeling grapes for your
dog, then your dog will have a lot to adjust to every time you leave him.
If things don't begin to improve relatively soon, please contact qualified
Homeopathic remedies may be helpful (as recommended by your vet or
In severe cases of separation anxiety, in conjunction with behavior
modification, psychotropic medication (such as Clomicalm) may be recommended by
your vet or behaviorist.