How to Ease Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Updated: May 4
(Photo taken via Belmont Animal Hospital)
Have you ever wondered why your doggo keeps whining and barking as you prepare to step out of your house? While it might not always be the case, there is a chance that your dog has separation anxiety, which is a behavior exhibited by pets when their owners are not within their vicinity.
If you’re curious to know about separation anxiety in doggos, we have written an article to answer your why's, what's and how's!
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is when your pupper display extreme anxiety or stress when you leave the house. 😥 As a result, your doggo may revert to aggression to vent their frustrations, such as biting your favorite curtains or howling for so long they could qualify for “World’s Longest Opera Performance”.
Although dogs and humans are two very different beings, many animal behaviorists have often likened separation anxiety to a panic attack! As such experiences can be very traumatic for dogs, pawrents can help their precious fur-child overcome this fear by teaching them how to enjoy being alone, which will be touched on later in this article. However, overcoming separation anxiety has its own set of challenges, so do remember to consult local animal behaviorists before an attempt!
Why does my dog have separation anxiety?
Statistically, dogs that have been adopted from shelters have a higher chance of developing separation anxiety compared to dogs that are loved by the same family since they were a pup! It is strongly believed that dramatic changes — such as being abandoned or moving to a different house — can be stressful for dogs, which might trigger the disorder.
Other reasons also include:
- Change of Owner
Abandonment is a very traumatic experience for everybody, human or not. The process of being given away or surrendered to shelters can make doggos vulnerable to developing separation anxiety.
- Different Household Structure
The sudden absence of a family member who lives in the same house (either due to passing or moving away) may trigger the disorder.
- Change in Schedule
An abrupt change in a constant, long-standing schedule in terms of how long your dog is usually left alone can be confusing and unsettling for them. For example, if a pawrent with a 9 to 5 schedule gets a new job assignment outstation that only allows them to visit on weekends, the doggo might develop separation anxiety.
- Change in Residence
Moving to a new home can be off-putting for both hoomans and doggos! Having to adapt to a brand new environment when their pawrent is away can be stressful for doggos, which may cause them to act out.
Signs that your dog MAY have separation anxiety 😓
While the signs for separation anxiety can be obvious (like chewing at your furniture or constant barking once you leave the house), there are other symptoms of separation anxiety that you might not have noticed. For example:
Excessive excitement when you return
Toileting (wetting or pooping)
Signs of excessive paw licking or tail biting)
Repetitive behavior (circling, pacing, barking)
Loss of appetite when you’re away
How do you overcome this?
Once you have identified the symptoms and confirmed them with a professional, the next step to take is to help your doggo overcome this fear. This can be done by:
- Leaving a special toy
You can leave your dog their favorite toy, such as a meat-flavored chew or a plushie when you have to step out of your house. You can even leave out recently worn clothes that smell like you that may help in reducing their stress 🐕
As doggos need mental stimulation, you also can provide them with safe enrichment toys like Interactive Snuffle Mats or challenging IQ Training Puzzles to keep your pupper distracted while you’re away. Every doggo is unique, so make sure to find out their preferences before making a purchase!
Although plushies and toys may keep your doggo busy when you’re gone, it might not work on doggos that exhibit more severe anxiety symptoms. If this ever happens, please consult professional dog behaviorists on the next best step forward!
- Encourage relaxation during their alone time
Spend time with your dog via outdoor activities — like a walk or a quick game of fetch — before you leave the house. This can get them their daily dose of exercise, which will help them relax and stimulate better rest.
You can also feed them a treat or small meal before you go — which will provide a calming effect and further ease them into relaxation. 😇
- Minimise disturbances
Dogs with separation anxiety can be easily stimulated by noises or the sight of other people / animals! This will cause them to react by barking or zooming across the house (which may result in a mess or a few worried neighbors). You can reduce such reactions by:
Closing the curtains to reduce what your dog can see.
Leaving them in a quiet room.
Leaving the radio on to muffle outside sounds.
Play calming music / turn the TV on before leaving the house! A house bustling with noise may help soothe your anxious doggo.
Thanks for reading this far! We hope that this list was helpful to all pawrents looking to keep their puppers happy and healthy~ You can save this article for future reference and share it with fellow doggo owners 🐶.
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