Separation Anxiety in Dogs
One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that
their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might
urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape.
Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite
house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems are
accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety
when his pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren’t evidence that the
dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t know which toys are his to chew. Instead,
they are indications that the dog has separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation
from their guardians, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs
with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and
household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and
Some dogs suffering from separation anxiety become agitated when their
guardians prepare to leave. Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their
guardians’ departure or when their guardians aren’t present. Some try to
prevent their guardians from leaving. Usually, right after a guardian leaves a
dog with separation anxiety, the dog will begin barking and displaying other
distress behaviors within a short time after being left alone-often within
minutes. When the guardian returns home, the dog acts as though it’s been years
since he’s seen his mom or dad!
When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the
dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being
left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog
experiences the situation that provokes his anxiety, namely being alone,
without experiencing fear or anxiety.
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
The following is a list of symptoms that may indicate separation
Urinating and Defecating
Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their
guardians. If a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his guardian, his
house soiling probably isn’t caused by separation anxiety.
Barking and Howling
A dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when
separated from his guardian. This kind of barking or howling is persistent and
doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone.
Chewing, Digging and Destruction
Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window
sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects when left alone
or separated from their guardians. These behaviors can result in self-injury,
such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws and damaged nails. If a dog’s
chewing, digging and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they don’t
usually occur in his guardian’s presence.