Dogs are animals that love to live in groups. They value companionship whether it is other canines or humans. When dogs are left alone for prolonged periods of time, they develop feelings of boredom, distress and fear. If this issue is left unattended, it may culminate in a major behavioral problem called Separation Anxiety.
Pet owners often fail to detect separation anxiety as many do not know about it. Because of their ignorance they do not realize that when the pet messes up the house despite potty training, destroys furniture repeatedly, barks and howls excessively and gets agitated easily, it is on account of an serious problem. The dog is stressed out and needs your help.
There are several methods to cure and prevent separation anxiety in dogs. But, before that, let’s discuss the causes and symptoms.
Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Some of the factors that trigger separation anxiety in dogs are as follows:
- A dog habituated to human company is left alone for a long time.
- A change in the owner either due to abandoning, adoption by another family or because of submission to a animal shelter.
- A change in the routine or schedule of the dog; for example if an owner changes from a work at home job to a full time job.
- A change in the environment or residence.
- Separation from a close member either due to death or the person has left the house.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The degree of separation anxiety may range from mild to severe. Following are the signs that will help a pet owner identify separation anxiety in dogs. They may vary from one dog to another.
1. Pooping and peeing in the house:
Dogs suffering with separation anxiety disorder generally resort to urinating and defecating in the house in the absence of its owner or master.
2. Incessant barking, howling and whining:
When the owner leaves home the dog barks, howls or whines. The barking and howling is continuous and without interruption. You will often receive complaints from neighbors about your dogs persistent barking.
3. Chewing, destroying household items and digging:
Dogs who suffer from this disorder will often chew and destroy household items such as window sills, door frames, a shoe or a sock etc. when left alone. Most of these include items which have the perfume of the owner. The pet may also start digging up the yard. These actions cause self injury and the dog may end up with cuts on the gum, broken teeth, damaged nails and injured paws.
4. Become Clingy:
Dogs with anxiety disorder tend to become clingy. They follow the owners around the house. It is because of the feeling of insecurity and the doubt that they might leave them again.
5. Licking and chewing oneself:
To get rid of their boredom when left alone, the dog starts licking and chewing itself especially the front paws. The constant licking develops a wound which may culminate in a hard to heal skin disease called Acral Lick Granuloma.
6. Loss of appetite:
Your pet’s food intake will decrease. The stress and anxiety of being aware from its guardian puts it off food. You will observe that your dog does not eat the food laid out for him in your absence. As a result the health deteriorates and your dog starts losing weight.
Many owners confine their pet in enclosures or cages when they leave the pet alone at home to avoid destruction to household property. Thus, the dog tries his best to get out and digs and chews aggressively resulting in self injury. The dog does not indulge in such behavior in such escapist behavior in the presence of its pet.
Like you would o when upset, the dog paces along a specific path in the absence of its guardians. The dogs may walk back and forth in a straight line or may move around in continuous circles.
9. Eating own excreta:
Also called Coprophagia, this condition is marked by the dog eating its own excreta, part or complete in the absence of its owner.
Treating separation anxiety in dogs includes detecting and resolving the underlying issue first. Punishment is not the solution.