Pet Articles

Dog Separation Anxiety

Dogs are social animals. They form strong attachments (sometimes too strong) to other dogs and people. Nowadays with an owner’s long hours out of the house and busy schedule, it is very important that they train their dog to stay alone. Understanding that it’s pleasant when we’re around yet our absences are tolerable, is a crucial thing to teach your dog.

Signs of separation anxiety are only seen in the owner’s absence or when the dog is prevented from being close to the owner ( for example at night). The dog is in a high state of anxiety or conflict because he wants to be with the owner and is prevented from doing so. Dogs like people cannot stay in a high state of anxiety for long, and must do something (often something undesirable from a human perspective) to reduce the tension. It is very important to realize that the dog is not doing these things to get even with his owner for leaving him. Out of boredom, or due to a lack of obedience, he must relieve this tensions and his methods of doing so may cause considerable damage. Consider that the dependence of the dog on his owner is so great that he becomes anxious when the owner leaves. Also consider that, no matter how flattering his constant attention to his owner may seen, it’s not fair to the dog to allow him to be so stressed by the absence of his owner.

Circumstances in which the anxiety will occur:

  • too strong an attachment to one person
  • separation from his mother and littermates
  • owners allow the dog to follow them all the time and bring him everywhere they go
  • very exciting departure and welcome

Signs of separation anxiety to reduce the tension:

  • destruction, digging, chewing, excessive vocalization
  • hyperactivity, depression, aggression
  • diarrhea/vomiting, urination/defecation

Moment that separation anxiety will express itself:

  • In the first hour of the departure or when the dog is prevented to be with the owner.

Preventing separation anxiety:

  • Crate training.
  • No speaking or giving attention when leaving, no excitement coming back.
  • Give the dog an acceptable item to chew or a stuffed Kong to occupy him when you leave. This toy should be reserved for your departure so the dog can associate the leaving with a pleasant moment.
  • Turn the radio on to a talk radio station from time to time while you are home, and then again when you leave.

Treating separation anxiety:

  • Obedience training with basic commands.
  • Ignore the dog when leaving.
  • Give him a stuffed Kong before leaving.
  • Mix the leaving cues (example: leave by the back door garage etc).
  • Practice false departure.
  • The coming back should be as calm as possible. Ignore all excited behaviour and reward or pay attention to all signs of calm behaviour.
  • In some severe cases, drugs may be used in association with retraining, but they don’t cure the problem. The use of this medication can decrease the anxiety and raise the dog’s ability to learn.

Julie Sansregret – AHT, Dog trainer
Guides Canins
1313, rue PineRidge,
St-Lazare-de-Vaudreuil, Qué.
J7T 2M7 (450) 424-1469

5 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Thanks for the great article that outlines the dog separation anxiety signs. I think it is important for people to realize that dogs don’t do damage to get back at their humans so thank you again for pointing that out! I also think it is important to point out that you need to keep the dog confined in a crate or a n xpen or even in a safe room to keep the dog from hurting himself or consuming something that could be toxic or get stuck.

    Thanks again for the article!

  2. Avatar Sharon says:

    We have a four year old Landseer Newfoundland, a real sweetheart of a dog. We were on a trip for 19 days and had a dog sitter stay at our home. While we were gone, she began peeing in various places around the house. Since returning she has continued this practice on our Oriental carpet in the dining room. She is VERY attached to my husband. What can we do to break her of this new habit? I’m thinking separation anxiety…my husband disagrees. I have put plastic and newspaper down on the spot she seems to favor, and sure enough she continues to pee! Want o get the carpet cleaned, have done spot cleaning and santitizing, but want to call in the ‘big guns’! HELP, what do we ned to do to break her?

  3. Avatar Cheryl says:

    We have a three year old great dane. We are baffled as to why he is urinating (just once) after we leave at our cottage on a lake, but he doesn’t do it at our house. The separation anxiety makes a lot of sense , but why wouldn’t he do it all the time, no matter where it is that we leave? All of the other comments are very helpful and I am going to put into place the suggestions. Hope it works!

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Glad you are finding the comments useful.

      For the best interaction though, please feel free to post this on our forum for direct answers to your particular situation.
      Good luck!

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