These days, Separation Anxiety in dogs seems to be a very common and prolific problem. This term is often used to generically refer to any behaviours exhibited by dogs where the dog, while being left alone, displays a host of maladaptive behaviours such as excessive barking, whining, urination and defecation, destructive chewing, or trying to escape from the house. When these issues are accompanied by signs of panic, distress or depression, they may indicate your pooch suffers from Separation Anxiety.
For many dogs, even the slightest change in daily routines can be upsetting. However, just because a dog displays these behaviours when left alone does not necessarily mean that they have true Separation Anxiety. The dog may have the lesser condition known as Isolation Distress.
What Is The Difference Between These Disorders?
- Isolation Distress – Dogs do not want to be left alone but for these dogs, any kind of company, people or other dogs, will take away or lessen their anxiety and the mal-adaptive behaviours that go with them.
- Separation Anxiety – Dogs that suffer from true separation anxiety are hyper bonded to one specific person. These dogs will continue to show anxiety and stressed behaviour while that person is absent even if other humans or dogs are present. In true Separation Anxiety, the maladaptive behaviours ONLY occur when the owner is absent. However, it can be noted that dogs that have Separation Anxiety tend to be very clingy and needy even when they are with their owners. These dogs seem to want to be physically near their owners at all times.
With both Isolation Distress and Separation Anxiety, the displayed behaviours are not simply about dogs behaving badly. These behaviours do not respond to scolding or to punishment nor do they get better over time on their own. Getting angry at the dog for doing the behaviour is not the solution. As a matter of fact, that will only create even more anxiety because eventually the dog will associate your absence and your presence with punishment.
Commonly seen behaviours in anxious dogs:
- They follow their owners around from room to room when it becomes obvious to them that their owner is preparing to leave.
- The dogs will pace, pant, drool, bark or whine, prior to the owner’s scheduled departure.
- The dogs display high levels of stress and panic during the owner’s absence, primarily exhibiting excessive barking, howling, house soiling, physically destroying objects in the house, especially doors and windows.
- Some dogs display self destructive or obsessive compulsive behaviours such as chewing or licking at paws and flank or tail sucking.
- Some dogs display hyperactive or manic behaviours, such as running in circles or galloping through the house.
- Some dogs refuse to eat or drink while they are left alone.
- Many dogs will not tolerate being crated or contained to any confined space.
- Some dogs can stand frozen in place with fear while panting and salivating.
- In some severe cases, dogs will try and escape out the house by breaking through windows or chewing through doors or walls.
- And anxious dogs will often display out of proportion manic excitement and frenzy upon the owners arrival home.
Are You Sure This Is Just Anxiety?
Before you assume that your dog’s urination in the house is separation anxiety, check to make sure that he does not have an underlying medical problem that causes this behaviour. Common medical issues for uncontrolled urination( incontinence) can be urinary tract infection, bladder stones, diabetes, or kidney disease.
How To Avoid Creating An Anxious Dog
Whether you are dealing with a new puppy, a newly adopted dog , or a dog that you already live with, it is not uncommon for them to attach themselves to a family member and not want to be separated from them. You can avoid complications from attachment disorders in your puppy or your newly adopted dog by observing the following steps:
- Make sure there is someone there with the dog while they are making their adjustment to their new home and owners.
- Prepare a nice quiet area or room for the dog so they have some place to retreat.
- When the dog arrives in his new home, after showing him to his new toileting area, spend the next 10 -15 minutes with him inside his new in environment. Show the dog to his new bed or sleeping area. Stay with the dog but do not interact with him every minute to allow him to become accustomed to his new surroundings.
- As the dog is familiarizing himself with his new surroundings, slowly begin removing yourself from his area but come back often so he can start to make the connection that the humans leave and then they return.
What To Do When You Have Leave Your Dog Alone?
- Make sure the dog is safely contained in a crate or safe area of the house. Leaving your dog loose will mean that you will likely come home to massive physical devastation in your house.
- Exercise the dog very well before you crate the dog. A tired dog will be less likely to panic at your absence. End your exercise session and allow 20 or 30 minutes for your dog to settle down before you leave.
- Use counter conditioning to help your dog associate being alone with something good to eat. Use a treat dispensing toy or give your dog a stuffed Kong to occupy his attention when you leave the house. Busy mouths are less likely to become destructive through boredom or anxiety.
- Try leaving the television or radio on for your dog for some background noise while you are away. There are special music CD’s or even DVD’s made just for soothing dogs that you can purchase.
- Make your departures and arrivals as unemotional as you can. If you make a big fuss over having to leave the dog, the dog will pick up on your stress and be stressed and anxious too. Many dogs know when you’re about to leave the house and will get anxious or try to prevent your departure altogether. One way to tackle “pre-departure anxiety” is to teach your dog that when you pick up your keys or put on your coat, it doesn’t always mean you’re leaving. Put on your boots and coat, and then just sit down and watch TV instead of leaving. Desensitize your dog to the triggers for you leaving. After you have densensitized your dog with short stays alone that don’t produce anxiety, then gradually increase time spent apart over the course of a few weeks.
If you have to be gone for longer periods of time, either arrange for a house or pet sitter to come in or consider placing your dog in doggie day care. Leaving a dog at home all day by itself for long periods of time is just inviting attachment disorders to happen.
If your dog continues to be stressed and anxious, ask a vet, behaviourist, or qualified trainer about using DAP sprays (pheromones are natural chemicals that a momma dog produces to calm her puppies. ), or a Thundershirt (uses gentle, continuous pressure to help calm your dog, making him feel safe and relaxed) on your dog.
Consult a Medical professional if your dog continues to have problems with Separation Anxiety or Isolation Disorder and does not respond to behaviour shaping or desensitizing techniques .
And please remember that anxious behaviours are not the result of disobedience or spite, so please do not scold or punish your dog for displaying these behaviours. If you punish him, he may become even more upset and the problem could get worse. Be patient and work with him until he feels comfortable and confident enough to spend time alone.
Important note: Young puppies should never be left home all day alone.
Alternative Therapies For Anxious Huskies
Dog owners naturally turn to their vet for help when their dog shows signs of being anxious or fearful. But in addition to traditional drugs given by veterinarians, there are also many natural alternatives too, often with less or no side effects. However, always consult with your vet before embarking on a natural path and research each product to determine the dosage, which will change based on the size of your dog.
Some Natural Products To Help Promote Calmness
- Oatmeal while being a grain, is low GI and has calming properties.
- Chamomile is also calming, ideal in tea form.
- Valerian is a well known mild sedative and great for calming dogs.
- Skullcap acts on the nervous system with calming effects.
- Jasmine also has a mild calming effect.
- Passionflower is great at calming dogs down without drowsiness, so ideal during the daytime.
Remedies Useful For Anxiety
Aconitum , Arsenicum, Baryta carb, Brain (specialty formula), Calcarea carb, Chamomilla, Coffea cruda, Gelsemium, Ignatia, Kali phos, Lycopodium , Passiflora incarnatea, Pulsatilla, Rhododendron, Staphysagria, Valeriana , Veratrum album, Zincum metallicum
Using Bach Flower Remedies To Calm Your Dog
Julie from aldaronessences.com says, “When selecting appropriate flower essences, look to the underlying causes – that is, the emotional motivation – behind the anxious dog’s discomfort, as well as the expression of the emotions the dog is experiencing.” Be sure to check out her website for a list of natural remedies for your dog.
As always, we welcome your questions, comments, and stories about your anxious dog because when we share our stories, we may well be helping someone who is struggling with their dog.
Helping ALL Snow Dogs …. one owner at a time.