Dogs are pack animals, which means they are happiest when they live in a group. As a result, they establish different levels and layers of relationship within that pack dynamic. Still, when a connection is two one-dimensional, or the “pack” abandons a solo dog for long periods, some dogs experience something we call “separation anxiety” (see more on potential causes below).
Separation anxiety manifests in both small and large ways, and some of them are destructive or even dangerous. For example, if your dog is generally well-behaved when you (or someone else) are at home but is destructive, loud, or aggressive when you’re away, there’s a good chance separation anxiety is at work.
BIG SOLUTION #1: ADEQUATELY EXERCISE YOUR DOG DAILY!
We’ll include specific fixes to common signs of separation anxiety underneath each one. Making sure your dog is well-exercised is the most important thing you can do to help them physically, mentally, and emotionally. A well-exercised dog is a happy and nappy dog, minimizing signs of separation anxiety.
Younger dogs and certain breeds need more exercise and playtime than others. If you can’t walk/jog/roller blade or hike your dog at least once a day:
As you read about the different signs of dog separation anxiety, know that “exercise your dog” is always the unwritten first bullet point.
Learning how your dog signals their anxiety provides essential information so you can begin the work of unwinding them and establishing new routines and expectations.
Neighbors will be the first to let you know if barking or howling becomes a problem. There’s nothing worse than living near a dog that barks or howls endlessly when left alone. The news may shock you if you rarely hear your dog bark or howl in your presence. This type of vocalization is typically persistent and rhythmic, rarely letting up.
If your dog urinates/defecates in your presence, this is a potty training issue and not related to separation anxiety. If your dog has access to a potty spot (yard, pen, potty pads, etc.) but doesn’t use them when you’re gone, it’s a sign.
You’ve purchased every chewy toy known to dog-kind, and your cluttered floor is a testament to that. Even so, your beloved dog chews up shoes, pillows, furniture legs, and whatever else they get their mouth on. This is often the sign of a dog needing more opportunity to release energy, so exercise, exercise, and more exercise are a huge help here.
A lonely dog with lots of energy (or a predisposition to running/jumping in general) may become an escape artist when left alone. Sometimes they’re actively looking for you, want a fun distraction, or find other playmates along their route.
Has your dog created a worn path on carpet or wood flooring from incessant pacing? It may be along a particular path or in a circle. Either way, it’s a sign of anxiety.
Loneliness is the main reason dogs experience separation anxiety. However, other things can cause temporary anxiety that escalates when left alone:
If something has changed for the dog or the household, give it a few weeks and see if the signs diminish over time and with the application of these tips. Otherwise, it’s time to seek professional support from a qualified dog trainer.
Alternative Canine Training has more than 30 years of professional experience eliminating separation anxiety for dogs and their human companions. Contact us to schedule a consultation so we can get to the bottom of things.