Dogs can be hard to read at times. One thing that you don’t want when having a new puppy is to see them scared. Today I wanted to talk about separation anxiety in dogs. It can be confusing and heartbreaking to see them scared. But fear not, we will walk through separation anxiety in dogs. I will talk about what separation anxiety is, the signs, causes, and treatments for your puppy.
What is Separation Anxiety?
To start, let’s talk about what is separation anxiety in dogs. Separation anxiety is when a dog because extremely attached to a human (or humans) and becomes anxious when separated or left alone. (Weird, it’s like the name matches the description).
Separation Anxiety is extremely common in dogs but can be treated. They tend to be more common in some breeds and adoption types. For example, Yorkshire Terriers have a very hyperactive personality and tend to be more prone to separation anxiety than other breeds. In addition, dogs that come from puppy mills and pet stores are also more likely to have separation anxiety than dogs that come from breeders or foster homes.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
There is a good chance that you are reading this article because you are either a curious creature, or you think you have a dog with separation anxiety. So, if you think your dog may have separation anxiety, I wanted to talk about some of the signs that you can look out for
• Excessive Barking
• Accidents, even though they are potty-trained
• Chewing on furniture
• Destructive behavior when alone
• Digging holes, or scratching at doors and windows
• Excessive scratching
• Excessive salivating
• Trying to escape or hide
If your puppy exhibits one or more of these behaviors when you leave them, then chances are they probably have some form of separation anxiety.
Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The next biggest step to helping your dog with separation anxiety is to find out WHY your dog has separation anxiety. There are many causes of separation anxiety, and working to find out why can help you find the right treatment plan for them.
Some of the most common causes of separation anxiety are:
• Change of owners suddenly
• Moving from a shelter to a new home
• Change of normal routine
• Loss of a family member
• Being taken from their mother too early as a puppy
All of these causes tend to have one thing in common, some form of a traumatic experience for the puppy. The puppy is used to a certain level of routine and that routine has been altered. When they change owners suddenly they can become attached to one person because of fear that their owners will abandon them again.
When a puppy moves from a shelter to a new home, they can become extremely attached to their new owners. This is not a bad thing. They see you as their rescuers. But that also means that they are terrified their rescuers are going to leave them, that is the same thing that happens when they lose a family member. They are terrified that their life is suddenly going to change and they will be left with nothing.
Finally, another major cause of separation anxiety in dogs is being taken from their mothers too early. This is, unfortunately, a very common practice among puppy mills. Their goal is to get the puppies on the store floor as quickly as possible, so they have a longer time being “cute” puppies. What they don’t realize is that once this puppy is adopted, it leads to so many problems. These puppies begin to associate their new owners as their mothers. They become so attached to their “mothers” that the thought of being without them is unbearable.
Treatments of Separation Anxiety
The next steps for separation anxiety are to get the treatment plan together to help your puppy. If the anxiety is mild, then it can be easily treated in a number of ways. First, you can make the process of leaving more enjoyable for your puppy. When you are getting ready to leave, try giving your puppy their favorite treats. Do this every time you are leaving to associate you leaving them with something positive.
Another thing that you can do is try and take the excitement out of leaving and coming home. If you’ve been gone for a number of hours, you may be tempted to treat your puppy with excitement. However, if your puppy has separation anxiety, this could only make it worse. When you greet them with excitement, they see your return as something positive, rather than just something normal.
If you are calmer when you leave and come home. Then they will not associate you leaving as anything they should concern themselves with. They know that you will always come back to them, so they shouldn’t be nervous when you leave. This process may take some time, but it is one of the simplest things you can do help your puppy with separation anxiety.
Another treatment option is to leave some of your clothes out for them. This will allow them to cuddle with your clothes so they feel comforted by your smell. Sometimes just the smell of their humans nearby can calm down a nervous puppy.
If your dogs tend to be triggered by certain events. Sometimes a thundershirt can help calm them down. Much like the weighted blanket trend with humans, a thundershirt can help the puppy feel swaddled and secure. If the thundershirt doesn’t seem to be working for your puppy, you can also try calming supplements for your puppy.
Basically, there are a lot of ways that you can help your dog feel more relaxed. Whether it is by your behavior, interactive toys, puppy games, enough exercise, or even medicine, there are a lot of ways to treats your puppy for separation anxiety. Every dog is different though, so you may need to try multiple ways to see what works best for your dog.
If your dog’s anxiety is more severe and none of those options are working than you may need to take more drastic measures. I would first start with slowly getting your dog used to being away from them. You can start with a very short time away from them so they can very slowly get used to you being gone. You may even have to start with only leaving for five minutes, then ten, and so on as they get more comfortable with you being away.
Some dogs may even require medication to help ease their minds when you are forced to leave them for extended periods of time. This, however, should be a last resort for your puppy. And prior to medicating your dog, I would highly recommend talking to your vet about your thoughts. You may think you know your puppy, but they know the medical side of dogs. Talking with them may help your dog either find the right medication or even may think of a new form of action for your scared puppy.
Separation Anxiety is a very real fear in dogs. And while it is very common in dogs, it is still something that needs to be taken seriously. Once you have figured out if your dog has separation anxiety, and what seems to trigger your puppy’s anxiety, you can work on figuring out the best form of action to treat them.
And as finally one last plug that I have to do anytime it is presented. Dog anxiety can step from puppy mills removing them from their mothers too early, or traumatic experiences. If possible, try and avoid purchasing puppies from pet stores and rescue instead. This will help prevent puppy mills demand from increasing and allow for puppies to have a better start to their life. In addition, if you are not fully prepared to care for a dog for the lifetime of the dog, DO NOT GET ONE. Do not put that trauma onto that dog because of your own selfish reasons. If you really care about dogs, take a second and think selflessly about the best way to care for your dog.
Because while there are many ways to treat separation anxiety, the best way is to prevent it.