If you’ve ever come home to a door full of scratch marks, potty messes on the floor, and a bunch of angry voicemails from your neighbors about incessant barking, your dog may be dealing with separation anxiety.
While some of these might describe a dog that is in need of house training, these are also common symptoms of distress. Separation anxiety is triggered when your dog senses that you’re getting ready to leave the house and can result in desperate escape attempts that can lead to household destruction and self-injury.
Common Signs of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can show itself in many different ways, so be vigilant in watching for any of these signs:
- Constant barking or howling
- Urination/defecation in the house
- Pacing around the house when he detects you’re leaving soon
- Attempting to escape by any means necessary
Causes of Separation Anxiety
You may be playing a part in your dog’s separation anxiety and not even realize it. When you get ready to leave the house, do you hug your dog, tell him what a good boy he is, and that you’ll be home as soon as you can? And soon as you walk through the door, do you throw your arms around him and scratch his tummy and give him a treat? If you answered yes, you could be encouraging his behavior. When you make a big fuss about leaving, it spikes his anxiety and he becomes overwhelmed by the thought of being alone that he forgets you’re coming home.
Instead, try giving him a toy 30 minutes before you leave to distract him. When saying goodbye, calmly pat him on the head and go. When you come home, ignore him or talk in a very even tone until he calms down.
Using a Crate to Ease Separation Anxiety
A dog’s crate is his own personal den; a place where he can relax and feel at home. When crate training a high-anxiety dog, you’ll want a sturdy cage with a thick wire gauge like the Ultima Pro to keep him safely contained. Get your dog acquainted with his crate by starting with short periods and increasing the time he spends in it. Leave his favorite bone in his crate as a stress reliever. Get him a nice, soft crate bed that he’ll love curling up on. Soon, your dog will associate his crate with comfort and familiarity, and he’ll learn that his crate is his safe space when he’s left alone.
Fixing separation anxiety takes a lot of hard work and patience. It’s easy to get frustrated when you come home to destructive behavior, but remember that your dog doesn’t mean to make you mad. He’s just panicked without you and feels safe and secure with you nearby. Make the commitment to work with your dog through his anxiety and you’ll both end up much happier.