Does your dog have separation anxiety?

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Does your dog bark or howl incessantly when you leave? Do they engage in destructive behaviors? Just like babies who cry when they leave their mother’s arms, some dogs do not like being left alone. They get stressed and can suffer from Separation Anxiety. They need to be shown that it’s okay for you to go and that inevitably you will come home!

Today, Richard and Vicki Horowitz, from Bark Busters came by the studio with Fenway, a 2 year old Golden Retriever, to help us talk about separation anxiety in dogs and how to handle it.

Separation anxiety in dogs is a condition largely misunderstood by humans. We tend to look at everything from a human point of view, even when it comes to our dogs. But they don’t think in the same way as we do.

Some of the signs that our dog may have some separation anxiety include:

  • Showing signs of agitation when you are getting ready to leave
  • Constantly follow you around the house as you go from room to room
  • Persistently bark, howl, chew or whine when you leave
  • Toileting in the house only when left alone
  • Seem anxious or depressed prior to your leaving
  • Trying and preventing you from leaving
  • Tries to escape by digging or chewing through doors and windows
  • Paces back and forth or around and around in circles

What causes Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety in dogs has several causes, one being incorrect education by owners, where puppies are over-indulged, and never given the chance to become accustomed to being left alone. Most owners overindulge their dogs, whether the dog is dominant or timid. The owner provides food, shelter, entertainment and love, but provides no leadership. Over-indulging a puppy also includes allowing him into the house the moment he cries to be let in or immediately after you arrive home.

Other causes of Separation Anxiety include:

  • Being abandoned by its original owner.
  • A major change in schedule. If you used to work in the house and suddenly get a new job outside of the home, this can trigger a dog’s separation anxiety.
  • Moving to a new home.

It can be very painful to watch your dog suffering from Separation Anxiety, what can people do?

Helping your dog to overcome Separation Anxiety can be tricky, because the last thing you want to do is induce more fear.

  1. Before you leave the house, take your dog for a walk if possible. This will help to tire him out. When you get ready to leave, try not to exhibit any guilty or nervous feelings. You want your dog to know you are the leader and are calm and assertive.
  2. When you leave the house, give your dog a favorite toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish. Your dog might like a toy stuffed with yummy frozen food. When you come home, remove this toy so he begins to associate your leaving with something enjoyable.
  3. If your dog suffers from more severe separation anxiety, you might need to take it in steps. Start with shorter separations and gradually increase the time over many weeks of daily sessions.
  4. Do not allow your dog to stick to you like glue. Make him stay in another room on a doggy bed, or put him outside and scatter some food over the back lawn to keep him occupied.
  5. The crate is an excellent tool for training – acclimate your dog to the crate so that he sees it as a safe haven. Place comfortable bedding and favorite toys in his crate, and continue to crate him periodically until he looks at it as his shelter, even entering the crate on his own.

With appropriate strategies regarding dog separation anxiety … both you and your dog will be less anxious!

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