Separation Anxiety in Dogs - Mahlow the Greyhound

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

We take a look at separation anxiety in dogs. Separation anxiety is a condition in which a dog becomes anxious or distressed when its owner leaves. This can manifest in a variety of ways, including destructive behaviour, excessive vocalisation, and elimination accidents.

Separation anxiety - or separation related behaviour - is behaviour which occurs only when the dog is separated from their owner. In many cases, it will be due to their feeling distressed due to being left alone. Indications of this behaviour include things such as destructive behaviour, unwanted toileting or reports of howling or barking. If you suspect separation anxiety in your dog, it can be helpful to film them when you are not home, to see if any signs are present, such as pacing or whining.

How to tell if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety

The most common behavioural signs of separation anxiety in dogs are as follows.

  • Destructive behaviour, such as chewing or destroying furniture.
  • Howling and barking.
  • Toileting.

Other signs can include:

  • Trembling, whining or pacing.
  • Excessive salvation.
  • Self-mutilation.
  • Repetitive behaviour.
  • Vomiting.

One of the main differences between separation anxiety and other behavioural disorders with similar signs is that the behaviour is in response to the owner leaving, with it being displayed soon after the owner leaves. Normally, this will start within 30 minutes, but will often be much sooner, such as in the first few minutes. Even if you think your dog is fine being left on their own, it is worth taking the time to check every now and again for any of the above signs of your dog being in distress, by filming them whilst you are out.

How to help with separation anxiety

You can take some positive steps if your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, or even if you just want to help your dog feel a bit better when they are left alone.

Leave a 'special' toy

Leave a mentally stimulating toy for your dog to chew on whilst you are out. A ‘kong’ stuffed with food, a flavoured chew, or a treat ball or cube. Use this as a ‘special’ toy which they are only given when you are not there. When you return home, put the toy away.

Take your dog out before you leave

If you can take your dog for a walk before you leave them, this will give them the chance to exercise, and therefore tire them out a little, and also to go to the toilet. Hopefully, this will encourage your dog to rest whist you are out, which will allow the time to pass quicker for them.

Try to limit disturbances

Dogs will often bark at the sight of other people or dogs passing by the window, or respond to external noises such as the street. If you can close the curtains, this will reduce what your dog can spot outside the window. If you can leave them in a quieter room, this can help, otherwise leave the radio on for them - which can somewhat reduce the effect of external noises.

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Use a dog walker

If you are leaving your dog alone for more than four hours, break their day up by having a dog walker take them out part-way through the day. This has the benefit of giving them something to look forward to each day, providing them with exercise to tire them, out, and give the, opportunity to go to the toilet. This is an excellent way of easing the stress your dog may experience when you are not there.

Do not punish your dog

If anything happens whilst you are out, such as chewed furniture or an unwelcome mess on your floor, you must not punish your dog. Aside from the fact it could have happened hours ago and your dog will not related the punishment to the act they did, your returning home and punishing them could lead to further increase the anxiety they feel when you are out, with a fear that each time you return, they may get into trouble. The best thing to do is to let your dog outside, and clear up any mess without fuss.

Seek the help of a vet or trained professional

If the above advice does not help, you can talk to a vet or other trained specialist. They should be able to help you to identify the underlying cause of the problem and develop a treatment plan to help both you and your dog.