What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety refers to excessive fear of separation from home or an attachment figure. In dogs, whether it’s puppies or adults, separation anxiety occurs when the dog exhibits fear and behavioral problems when left alone.
Overall, in her book Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Dr. Karen defined separation anxiety as a condition in which animals show signs of anxiety or excessive distress when they are alone. Most of the dogs experiencing this challenging and destructive behavior often refuse to eat or drink when alone, pant and salivate excessively, and even go as far as trying to escape with complete disregard for injury to their body and or damage to their home environment.
As much as these problems may mean that a dog needs to be disciplined and taught polite house manners, they are also symptoms of distress. When a disorder like this in a dog comes in the company of other distress behaviors like drooling, showing anxiety when owners prepare to leave home; they are no longer indications that the dog lacks house training. Instead, they are clear indications that the dog is suffering from separation anxiety.
Time of occurrence of separation anxiety vary from dog to dog. Some dogs get agitated when their owner prepare to leave the house, others get depressed after the owner’s departure. Some even try to prevent their owners from leaving. But when the owner eventually returns, the dog welcomes him like his long-lost parent.
The Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Dog separation anxiety is often ignorantly caused by dog owners. When our dogs were puppies, we derive pleasure in taking them everywhere for socialization. Then, they attain an age when they always feel the need to be with us because we have become their source of confidence and security. Unfortunately, this is the exact time we have to leave them alone. The result of these uncorrelated interests is separation anxiety.
Furthermore, separation anxiety can be a result of a traumatic experience such as earthquake or being lost in an unfamiliar environment. In some cases, the death of a person or another pet in the household can trigger separation. Other causes of separation anxiety include change of owner, change of residence, and change in schedule among others. However, some dog breeds are just genetically disposed to the disorder with no traceable cause.
How to Tell If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Some of the behaviors you would notice in your dog suffering from separation anxiety include:
• Destructive behaviors like chewing pillows/furniture, damaging plants, scratching doors/windows
• Barking, howling or whining
• Defecating and urinating indoors (not to be confused with a puppy/dog still being house-trained)
• Intense pacing
• Desperate attempts to escape a room, cage or crate to the point of injuring self
• Excessive salivation
• Refusal to eat or drink when alone