Pet parents love spending time with their dogs, and their dogs love spending time with them. However, dogs can sometimes develop separation anxiety when away from their pet parent. This condition can range from mild to severe.
There are many ways to treat separation anxiety, including training, supplements, and medications. The severity of the condition and the dog's personality are key factors in finding the best treatment plan. If medication is needed, pet parents will need to work closely with a vet to determine the proper dosage.
Often, the pet parent may not realize their dog is suffering from separation anxiety because they don't know the signs of separation anxiety in dogs.
Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Dogs are unable to communicate in human language. They rely on other means of communication, and the pet parents are left to interpret the behaviors. Dogs often display negative behaviors when they have separation anxiety. Many pet parents may not know this and punish the dog, but punishing a dog suffering from separation anxiety can worsen the problem. Identifying it early can save the pet parent and their dog a lot of grief. The following clinical signs of separation anxiety in dogs can help pet parents identify the problem:
Dogs use various vocalizations to communicate. Most of the time, dogs vocalize when they're excited, happy, want something, alert to danger, or as a warning. Other times, dogs may vocalize excessively due to separation anxiety. When a dog's pet parent is not around, the dog may:
- Bark excessively
Dogs that excessively vocalize when their pet parent is away can be frustrating to neighbors and roommates.
Dogs act out for a reason, usually to get attention or because they're bored. Dogs with separation anxiety may display many negative behaviors that worsen as the condition progresses and is left untreated. These behaviors include:
Dogs with separation anxiety are prone to temper tantrums and destroying the house. Pet parents' first instinct is usually to punish their dog. However, punishment can make the condition worse. Negative attention from the pet parent is still attention and can cause the dog to escalate the behavior. Before the pet parent reacts, they should take a breath and think about possible reasons their dog was destructive.
When dogs are punished for their destructive behavior, they may become aggressive. After all, the dog is trying to communicate that they have a problem, and an adverse reaction from the pet parent can result in aggressive behavior from their dog. If the pet parent continues to punish the dog, the behavior will worsen.
Some dogs will become withdrawn and scared of their pet parent. The bond dogs have with their pet parent is built on trust, and when a dog is punished for their separation anxiety, they can become fearful of their pet parent and depressed.
When dogs become scared or overwhelmed, they may lose control of their bladder and bowels.
Separation anxiety is a psychological disorder, and every dog copes with it differently. Many dogs display the above behaviors, while others become self-destructive and might begin harming themselves. Examples of self-harm can include:
- Excessively licking themselves
- Chewing on their limbs or tail
- Constantly scratching themselves
- Pulling out their fur
- Sucking on their flank
Self-harming can cause many secondary health problems such as skin abrasions and infections. Dogs that self-harm should be seen by a vet and any wounds treated.
Additional Dog Behavior Advice
Pet parents can try to prevent their dog from developing separation anxiety by making sure their dog's physical and mental health needs are being met, though some dogs are genetically prone to separation anxiety. Early treatment is key to preventing the condition from worsening. Actions pet parents should avoid when their dog has a negative behavior include:
- Physically punishing the dog by hitting or slapping.
- Locking the dog outside for an extended period.
- Putting the dog in their kennel. The kennel should never be used for punishment.
- Rubbing the dog's nose in the mess.
- Yelling at the dog.
Pet parents will need to be patient and try to understand the cause of the dog's behaviors. If separation anxiety is caught early, they can implement a training plan to help their dog. Other treatment options include supplements and medication.
All of the above clinical signs can indicate separation anxiety, but they can also be a symptom of other underlying health problems. Pet parents should consult a vet to run tests and rule out other potential health problems.