Did you know that separation anxiety in dogs was a thing? Like humans, dogs can experience anxiety, and for a myriad of reasons, and as Pet Parents, it’s our job to identify those reasons and help out dogs deal with their anxiety.
Now, after over a year of most of us being at home and being with our furry friends nearly 24/7, it’s expected that some of them might start experiencing separation anxiety. In today’s post, we will share Hannah’s story of her dog who had separation anxiety, share how separation anxiety in dogs can manifest, and help dogs that experience it.
This means that if you are returning to work anytime soon, you can start setting your dog up to succeed when you have to leave them for a little while.
Separation Anxiety and a Dog Called Toaby
I used to have a dog called Toaby. He was a long-legged Jack Russell terrier with a love of food that was probably equal to Scooby-Doos! He’d spend his days running around the house and garden like a hurricane and going out for a walk – even if he’d follow his nose a bit more than following through on his recall. He was the perfect kind of dog, except for at night.
See, we used to leave the dog’s downstairs to sleep rather than letting them upstairs and on the beds. But as Toaby neared the age of ten, rather than curling up on his bed (the sofa) he started barking, scratching at the door and by the sounds of it running at the door too in an attempt to get it open. This was back in the day when we only had him, and Rambo and all he’d ever known was sleeping downstairs.
It was entirely unusual for him to act like that, and slowly we began to see a change in him during the day too. Rather than doing his own thing as he’d always done, we noticed he started to check in on us more and more and on walks rather than following his nose; he’d stay as close to your leg as possible without causing you to trip over.
He simply couldn’t be left alone, but apart from that, his personality was the same. That was until we’d go out for an hour or so and come back to see the paint entirely scratched off the bottom half of the door. It just wasn’t him, and these behaviours only occurred when he was alone or if we were out, so we decided to take him to the vet.
It turns out Toaby was going deaf (though I swear he could still hear a packet of biscuits being opened a mile away if he wanted), but he was also going blind in one eye, and it started to make sense. Toaby didn’t feel comfortable going about his normal life. When we were separated, the world was more confusing for him, and he didn’t feel safe – he was suffering from separation anxiety because he depended on us so much.
After getting a diagnosis for Toaby, this enabled up as Pet Parents to help him deal with his anxiety and loss of senses. We made sure to allow him upstairs as we realised it wasn’t about him getting on the bed but knowing where we were and that we were near. We started to make sure if we were going out to leave him in the room that he was most comfortable in if we were going out. Essentially we set him up in the best space that would allow him to feel safe.
Common Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
However, separation anxiety doesn’t just occur in older dogs or dogs that are losing their sense of smell, sight or hearing. It can happen to any dog, at any age and any breed. This is why we’ve compiled a list of signs that your dog may have separation anxiety.
- Barking, howling or crying as soon as you leave them in a room by themselves.
- When left alone, they begin destructive behaviour such as chewing, scratching and digging.
- Restlessness, they aren’t able to relax, so you may find them panting.
- Urinating or releasing themselves in the house when they don’t usually, which may be due to them working themselves up into a panic.
- They may attempt to escape, so you may notice more destruction occurring near doors or windows.
How to Help Your Dog With Separation Anxiety
Now, we aren’t vets but just Pet Parents like you, and we hate to see any dog stressed or placed in a situation where they are experiencing anxiety, so we wanted to share some tips on how you can help your dog.
But we advise that if you are particularly concerned about your dog and their separation anxiety, get in touch with your vet or a local dog behaviourist as they’ll be in a better place to determine the best course of action for you to take to help your dog.
- Identify where their anxiety is coming from? Is it boredom related? Frustration at being left alone and not having as much freedom around the house as they normally do? Or is it being fearful of not being with you? Once you’ve identified where the anxiety is coming from, then you can create an action plan to deal with it.
- Once you’ve identified the leading cause of your dog’s separation anxiety, then you can start setting them up to succeed to avoid the undesirable behaviours for when you’re gone. You can do this by providing your dog with a safe and cosy space for them to be able to settle in.
- After creating a safe space for your dog, then you can begin working towards your dog feeling safe when left alone in this space. Start slowly by leaving them for a few minutes at a time and slowly building this up so that they become used to being left alone.
- If you’re planning to leave the house, consider investing in a camera and treat dispenser so that when you’re out, you can reward them and remind them that you’re watching with a treat.
Again, we aren’t dog behaviourists, but we are pet parents and can understand the worry a pet parent can feel when their dog is stressed or experiencing separation anxiety. If you want to learn more about separation anxiety in dogs, check out some of the articles we’ve linked below and found helpful ourselves.