Canine Behaviour: Separation Anxiety – Causes and Fixes

 


Separation anxiety is a common concern for many dog owners. It is one of the most common canine behavioural problems, with over 50% of all dogs exhibiting symptoms of separation anxiety at some point over their lifetime.

Cause and Effect

There are a number of catalysts that can cause separation anxiety:

  • Moving house
  • An abrupt change in schedule
  • A change in the house hold dynamic (family members moving out, or a new baby for example)
  • Boredom

Common symptoms of separation anxiety are:

  • Excessive barking
  • Digging
  • Pacing
  • Vomiting
  • Obsessive scratching or grooming
  • Destructive behaviour
  • Urinating or defecating inside the house
  • Clinginess

Ways to Approach Separation Anxiety

  • Remain calm when you leave and upon your return.  Do not fuss, do not make eye contact. Try not to make an occasion out of your leaving.
  • Offer plenty of stimulation when you’re together. Give your dog plenty of exercise and mental stimulation so he is less likely to become bored or disruptive when you are apart.
  • Consider counter-conditioning. Try leaving your dog with a reward-based toy. Time how long it will take for him to solve, then leave him alone in the house for exactly that length of time. Eventually he will begin to associate you leaving with something positive.
  • Try doggy day care. This removes the necessity for your dog to be alone for long periods. You could also try a dog walker or perhaps see if you can take your dog into work.
  • Do not yell or punish. This behaviour is often borne out of stress, so scolding your dog could make the situation worse.
  • Try natural sedatives. Try a pheromone diffuser, or a natural supplement such as M&C Calm UM, which can help calm over stressed or excitable dogs.

This type of canine behaviour can be quite a complicated problem. Reasons for separation anxiety could be deep-seated in your dog’s personality, especially if he was a rescue dog or the runt of the litter. Canines by their very nature also tend to feel more comfortable in a pack. If in doubt, seek expert advice. If you are particularly concerned about your dog, ensure you consult a vet or a behaviourist for further advice.

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