Recognizing Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Dogs that appear stressed or nervous when their owners leave the house or even the room may be experiencing a common problem known as separation anxiety. Many dogs become apprehensive when their owners are out of view, and such apprehension can be very tough on the dogs.

The Humane Society of the United States says severe separation anxiety may be exhibited by extreme behavior problems and destructive actions. Dogs may engage in destructive chewing, excessive barking that annoys neighbors, digging or scratching at windows, breaking out of cages or enclosures, or urination and defecation, even among house-trained dogs.

Cases of separation anxiety may be simulated or true, according to professional dog expert Cesar Millan. Some attention-seeking dogs learn the behavior, knowing it will garner attention – even if it’s for the wrong reasons. True separation anxiety is a genuinely stressful event for dogs.

When treating dogs with separation anxiety, the ASPCA advises that owners should aim to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety and help it to grow accustomed to being alone for long periods of time. This can begin through early socialization as a puppy. Try these techniques.

· While it’s tempting to take a new puppy with you everywhere or lavish constant attention on the dog, this could be setting you up for problems later on. Help the dog feel secure by not being the constant center of entertainment. Reinforce lessons that the dog will have to busy itself with toys from time to time.

· Many dog-related problems result from ill-established leadership roles in a house. Dogs follow a pack mentality, and it’s important for pet owners to constantly reinforce their role as the pack leader so that the dog does not try to push boundaries. Knowing the pack order can relieve some of the dog’s stress.

· Exercise may help reduce anxiety. Tired dogs are less likely to grow bored and more likely to find contentment by sleeping instead of being destructive. Exercise, discipline and then affection are the common mantras of dog trainers.

· Don’t make a fuss when coming or going. This way the dog doesn’t associate your leaving with a big deal, or your coming home as something that is the pinnacle of his day. Be calm and consistent, and only reward desirable behavior.

· Provide comforting items, like worn clothes that smell like you. Also, train the dog to recognize that a particular word or action signals your eventual return.

Talk to a vet if separation anxiety has gotten out of control.