What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a very real problem for some canines. It can also create difficulties for a dog’s human companion and neighbors that may be subjected to it second hand. The problem arises when a dog is too dependent on its human caretaker or has been traumatized and is afraid to be left alone. Lack of proper socialization as a puppy matures can contribute to the syndrome.
Separation AnxietySome breeds are more prone to developing anxiety when separated from their people such as border collies, German shepherds and Labrador retrievers, along with Jack Russell terriers, Australian shepherds and German shorthaired pointers. However, that doesn’t mean that every one of those breeds will develop anxiety or that other breeds are immune. The type of dog that typically demonstrates separation anxiety is fearful of being left alone and won’t have the coping skills necessary to calm themselves. They require a great deal of contact with their humans to feel safe and secure, and will often follow their human companion from room to room. Dogs that never had symptoms when they were young can develop the fear of being alone when they’re older.
Unwanted BehaviorA canine that experiences separation anxiety may exhibit it in a myriad of ways. They may be destructive, chewing on furniture cushions or wooden items, and scratching up doors in an attempt to follow their human companions. They may shake, shiver, bark or howl. Some will defecate or urinate indoors. The behavior may begin as individuals prepare to leave or after they’ve actually left.
PreventingIt’s always best to consult with a veterinarian to determine if there’s a health-related reason for the behavior. There are multiple ways to address the problem and some dogs will respond better to one method over another. A regular, predictable routine is a good place to begin and make sure the canine has plenty of toys to stimulate their interest. It may also be helpful to hire a dog sitter. Punishment for damage done during separation anxiety will only compound the problem. There are also “blankets” that can be worn that work for some dogs. Supplements containing serotonin are available, along with prescription medications. Never give a dog even over-the-counter supplements without first consulting with a veterinarian. It may be necessary to hire a professional trainer, depending on the severity of the anxiety.
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