Can Dogs Get Separation Anxiety?

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Something big has changed in your world. Maybe you have a new puppy. Perhaps you’ve adopted a new dog into your family. Either way, you know you both have some adapting to do together. Puppies and older dogs can become stressed with new events in your life. Your dog might be used to you being home a lot, and when you change your schedule or routine, your best friend and family pet begins to change their behaviors. It’s hard not to notice how we all deal with stress. And stress and anxiety are not fun to handle not matter who you are.

Can Dogs Get Separation Anxiety?

YES!

You are your dog’s best friend. His confidant. He depends on you for physical activity and stimulation. He depends on you for food and shelter. And even though he might not enjoy it, he knows when you take him to see his veterinarian, it’s because you love him and are making the best choices for him. He also depends on you for his emotional well-being. And when things in your household change, like when you leave your pup, he could be so stressed he’s not sure how to handle the anxiety. Separation anxiety can occur when you leave for short periods of time or when you are gone all day or for an extended period of time.

Does My Dog Have Separation Anxiety?

If you leave your house and come home to a wrecked home, chewed furniture, eaten shoes, toppled garbage cans, or other destruction, your dog might be dealing with separation anxiety. This kind of stress from your dog can become serious and sadly is often a reason many owners rehome their pets. Your dog could simply cry or whine the entire time you are gone, unsure when to expect you back--or if you are coming back at all. Or your dog could bark an entire day, straining relationships with your neighbors. Even worse, your dog can spend their time away from you chewing on anything they can find, destroying your furniture or carpets. Some dogs have been known to chew on walls or door frames. Others have pulled curtains from the windows.   

Just as with anxiety in humans, dogs who suffer from separation anxiety do so because of a fear they have. Your rescued dog may have been left behind for extended periods of time without food or water or in extreme conditions. Your puppy might be too young to know the routine in your lives to trust you will be coming home after some time. You and your veterinarian can diagnose separation anxiety by talking about the dog’s behaviors and changes within the household. Even a dog who has never had this kind of anxiety can experience it if someone moves from the house or passes away.

You can read more about separation anxiety here.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Separation Anxiety?

Most puppies and even older rescued dogs need time and patience from you to adjust. But there are some things you can do to help your dog better handle his times away from you and the anxiety being without you causes. Puppies and new dogs can be crate trained. Dogs will learn the crate is their safe place and will starting going into their crate for comfort. Crate training takes effort and time, but your dog will see their crate as their personal safe space if they are crate trained from the start.

Exercise can also help your dog with separation anxiety. If you are able, walk or run with your dog to help tire him before you leave. This will help him rest once you leave the house. If you mix this with early crate training, your dog is likely to nap while inside their crate.

Severe cases of separation anxiety can be treated by your veterinarian with medications. Many dog owners also use essential oils to help calm their dog’s fears.

You can get more information about anxiety here.     

How is Separation Anxiety Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Stress and anxiety are similar in most animals as well as people. Stress affects our bodies. Humans, other animals, and dogs could stop eating due to stress, which could cause illness. Babies sometimes have to deal with separation anxiety. If a new mother goes to work or leaves her baby after the first few weeks of being together non-stop, the baby could cry incessantly just as a puppy might when its owner leaves him for the first few times. If the baby isn’t comforted or taught to cope, separation anxiety can manifest in other stresses as they grow. If your puppy isn’t helped as well, their anxieties could affect how they behave.

How is Separation Anxiety Different in Dogs and Humans?

Young babies and children usually have other comforts around such as a different caregiver, whereas a dog who is left alone is often alone with no one to provide comfort. Older people, including children, tend to have more control over their reactions to separation anxiety and stress. A dog, however, might take the entire time they are feeling anxious making bad choices, which could affect your home and your belongings. Most people won’t urinate around their home if a partner or caregiver leaves, but if your puppy or dog is suffering from separation anxiety, he just might.

Case Study

A new puppy is brought home to her new family. She’s young and used to her mother and siblings living with her, cuddling while she sleeps, and always nearby. After a weekend of her new family doting on her, she must face a Monday all alone as the children in the family head to school, and the adults head off to start the work week.

Luckily for this little puppy, she’s being crate trained. Her owners have put her in the crate for several minutes at the time to get her used to the closed space. They make sure she has enough room to move around with fresh water available and a special place to sleep with safe chew toys available to help pass the time. Once the family is ready to go away from her, she is placed in her crate with some love and hugs from her people. She whines for a while but eventually settles down knowing she is safe inside her special place.

As she grows, the family leaves the crate door open for her, and when she’s sleepy, she naps inside the crate. When the family leaves the house, she goes inside her crate. She’s learned her crate is a safe place. A special place. A place just for her.