Separation anxiety can be highly frustrating for pet owners – and sometimes for their neighbors as well.
Coming home to find your house in disarray time after time can be enough to push you over the edge. This behavioral challenge is the reason that many pet owners cite for placing their pets for adoption or surrendering them to a shelter.
Before you’re tempted to give up on your canine companion, it may be helpful to learn more about the origins of separation anxiety and what you can do to address the problem.
What Causes Your Dog to Have Separation Anxiety?
As the name suggests, your dog displays the signs of separation anxiety when you leave him alone. And, chances are, he starts to express his dismay as you prepare to leave and when you return. So what causes one dog – but not another – to develop this intense angst?
Puppies naturally display a high level of anxiety when separated from their mother, but most grow out of this behavioral pattern normally. Having a traumatic experience can result in patterns of anxiety, and this behavior is commonly seen in shelter dogs and those raised in puppy mills. Changes in your household, including adding or subtracting a member of the household, altering schedules or routines or moving may also be to blame.
Finally, for some dogs, the underlying reason is genetic. Some breeds are more prone to this behavior than others and poor breeding practices can exacerbate the tendency.
As always, it’s important that you visit your veterinarian to rule out any potential medical problems that may be to blame. This is especially important if your pet suddenly develops an anxiety problem when he previously did not exhibit these behaviors.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Some of the most common dog separation anxiety symptoms are excessive barking, urination or defecation indoors and chewing. In extreme cases, dogs have been known to eat through drywall, flooring and even doors. Pacing, howling and coprophagia are other common symptoms.
Anxiety can also make your pet aversive to being crated, to the point that he harms himself in an attempt to escape his confines. Broken teeth and bleeding nails are common signs of this problem.
As you prepare to leave the house, watch your pet for symptoms such as drooling or excessive panting, which can indicate escalating anxiety. The key to differentiating separation anxiety from poor training or bad behavior is whether or not your pet displays any of these behaviors when you’re home. If he does, it’s probably not a true anxiety issue.
How Dog Trainers Address Separation Anxiety
Although you can take steps to reduce your pet’s separation issues, the assistance of a professional dog trainer is often necessary to resolve the problem. Consulting a dog trainer is even more important for correctly diagnosing the problem.
Many pet owners erroneously self-diagnose their dog’s destructive behaviors as separation anxiety when other causes are actually to blame. Not every chewed shoe, household accident or period of excessive barking is the result of anxiety. But, when they occur repeatedly in your absence, it’s an easy conclusion to make.
The Innovative K9 Academy training team understands how to identify the origins of your pet’s bad behavior. Whatever the cause, we use research-based techniques to help your pet overcome their challenges. We also work extensively with our human clients to help them maintain and support their pets’ training.
Contact us today to learn more about our effective training classes and intensive boot camps for dogs and puppies. We look forward to helping you and your pet overcome the challenges of separation anxiety.