Separation Anxiety In Dogs
If you are a first time dog owner, one really important thing to get right from an early stage is how to prevent separation anxiety in dogs when you need to leave them alone in the house. Dogs are naturally pack animals, and generally speaking they do not like to be left alone.They can however, become accustomed to being left for short periods of time when necessary. If you train your puppy gradually from an early age, you can limit any anxiety they may encounter when left.
What is Dog Separation Anxiety?
When we first got dogs, we were naive to the term. Despite that, with hindsight our lab displayed the common signs of separation anxiety, namely that she would chew and destroy virtually everything in her path.
- Increased heart and breathing rate, enlarged pupils, panting and excessive salivating, and a need to toilet. (In humans, we call this the ‘fight or flight’ response).
- When you leave, they may bark or howl, and try following you, scratching at doors or jumping at windows
- After this, they may start to chew things, especially if it has the owners scent on it
- When you come home, they may become overexcited and happy and follow you around constantly but display signs of anxiety again if you appear to be about to leave again.
An article written by Dogs Trust School suggested that from a pilot study by Bristol University of 40 dogs filmed using remote cameras, the vast majority over 85% showed physiological or behavioural signs of anxiety when left. Some displayed the ‘classic’ signs of separation anxiety in dogs. Most others also showed more subtle signs such as being particularly active and running about the house. Conversely some were spending a lot of time on their bed but appearing tense and other subtle behaviours.
How Can It Be Managed?
- Where possible, start them off young. If a puppy is gradually trained to accept some time home alone, it will be easier in the long run. Of course, there are sometimes circumstances in a dog’s life where separation anxiety may become a new issue. These might be a change of owner, new home, lifestyle changes i.e new job, and therefore you may not be able to prevent it just by training he had as a pup.
- In terms of training your dog to be alone, one tip I have read multiple times is about using baby stair gates on doorways rather than having to close a door. That way when you leave a room your pup can still see/smell you and it feels less enclosed.
- Wherever you decide to leave your pet, put a cosy bed, water and treats. In fact, whatever advice I read, I stumble upon the same toy recommended time and time again – a Kong toy stuffed with treats! Kong toys are known for being pretty indestructible so it’s a good bet. Background noise such as a radio can also be helpful to relax your pooch.
- Build up gradually, leaving for longer periods each time. At first, don’t leave the house, and slowly build up to this. Don’t make a fuss upon leaving or returning. It’s paramount not to become angry if you come home to a soiling or a destroyed toy/bed/furniture! It just won’t help and only serve to make your dog more anxious.
- Exercising your dog before leaving them may also help, if they are tired out. It may also help form a routine that they become used to; walk/play then nap whilst you’re gone.
- A final thought is the possibility of using a dog camera. Many dog cameras allow you to communicate with your pet, and the sound of his owner’s voice may be enough to calm him down. Some, like the Furbo, also allow you to throw him a treat, therefore becoming more interactive. You can get barking notifications to be able to respond when your dog may be stressed, and generally give yourself peace of mind that they are OK. We’re not saying this is the magic bullet for separation anxiety in dogs. Your pet will require training to get used to an interactive pet camera. However, they’re definitely an innovative way to help deal with the problem of being separated from your dog.