Has your dog ever chewed up the furniture, or soiled in the house when you leave them alone? This could be due to boredom, or it could be due to separation anxiety. Canine separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset due to the fact that they are separated from the people they’re attached to.
Signs Of Canine Separation Anxiety
If your dog is experiencing true separation anxiety, they will display signs of stress such as panting, pacing, whining, shaking, or drooling excessively as you prepare to leave. Most dogs with separation anxiety will try to remain close to you, follow you from room to room in the house, and will rarely spend time alone outdoors. They may also seek out a lot of physical contact and / or attention from you.
If a dog with separation anxiety tries to escape confinement, it is usually extreme, and can result in self-injury and household destruction. Dogs with separation anxiety will chew through plastic or wire crates, and through drywall and wooden doors to get to their owners. They may also attempt to go through doors or windows. When they get out, they may continue to chew and dig, or may soil the house. However, if your dog chews, digs, or soils in the house when you’re home, the cause may not be separation anxiety, but possibly boredom or a medical issue.
If you come home to any sort of a mess, do NOT punish the dog. Dogs are very much in-the-moment animals, which means that unless you catch them in the act of messing in the house, chewing, or digging, they will not associate their behavior with your stern voice and demeanor. They will only understand that you’re upset with them, but won’t know why. Dogs display something known as “appeasement behaviors” in the cute “guilty animal” videos on the internet. These include puppy eyes, putting their ears back, lowering their body, and tucking their tail between their legs.
For any incontinence issues, make sure that you take your dog to the vet to rule out any underlying medical problems before addressing behavioral concerns.
How To Prevent Separation Anxiety
One way to prevent separation anxiety is to make sure that dogs have scheduled times where they learn to spend time alone in their own crates or their own bed. Creating positive association with your departure also helps. Don’t make a big deal about leaving or coming home, and when you’re about to leave the house, give them a stuffed Kong, puzzle ball filled with treats, etc. so that they associate your departure with treats!
If your dog is bored, there are a number of ways to combat this! Our post on preventing doggy boredom goes into a bit more detail, but at a high level, make sure that you exercise your dog mentally and physically on a regular basis. This means playing tug or fetch, and doing obedience training with them. In fact, you can easily incorporate a “settle” command into your training, and reward calm behavior. You can also train your dog to go to their place / into their crate, and reward them for calm, settled behavior. When practicing this, make sure that you don’t inadvertently reinforce crying or barking! Eventually, you should be able to establish a daily routine with your dog where they learn to lie on their mat to either nap or play with their own toys.
If you have any questions about separation anxiety, or if you’d like to schedule a time to discuss specific training questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help you and your dog improve your relationship together!