As dog owners, nothing is more important to us than the happiness of our pets. It can be difficult to leave your dog behind for any reason: a day of work, vacation, or even just to run errands, especially if they are showing resistance to your leaving the house. While you’re gone, not only do you wonder if they’re alright but what trouble they could be getting into around the house. Coming home to urination or other messes could be a sign that your dog has separation anxiety.
But how can you tell? And what do you do to fix it? Here are seven signs that your pup might be developing separation anxiety and some potential solutions. Once the problem is identified and remedied, you’ll be able to leave the house worry-free!
Urination and Defecation
If your dog is urinating and defecating in the house when you aren’t home, this could be a potential sign of separation anxiety, especially if your dog is older and already potty-trained. If this is a new habit, something is likely causing their accidents, and if it only happens when you leave home, it could very well have something to do with separation.
If your pup is having accidents in the house when you’re home, it probably isn’t due to your left. However, it’s still worth getting a veterinary checkup to see if any underlying medical conditions are causing the urination and defecation. If so, you can treat the problem with medication or even by feeding your pup dog food that supports urinary health.
Just like humans, dogs can exhibit anxious movements as well. Often dogs who experience separation anxiety can be found pacing either when their owner is about to leave or has already left the house. Pacing can look like several things: either walking back and forth in a straight line or even walking around the house in the same route each time.
Pay attention to how your dog reacts when you start to leave home, and if the pacing is frequent, it could be a sign of separation anxiety. If you are able, it could be a good idea to install a camera or other recording device inside the house to see if your pup is pacing while you are gone, as well. If your dog is pacing while you are around, there is likely to be a different problem aside from separation.
Barking or Howling
Barking and howling are ways that dogs communicate to their owners that something is wrong, whether that be someone at the door or a need to go outside. Dogs are also likely to bark or howl if they are distressed about your leaving and suffer from separation anxiety when you’re gone. If you notice that your dog is barking or howling more than usual or at times when you’re about to leave home, this could be a sign of their nervousness.
If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, they may attempt to escape from their confined space once you’ve left the house. They may do this by digging under or chewing through doors, windows, their crate or kennel, or even the fence outside. If you’re coming home to scratches on the doors, bite marks on their kennel, or holes under your fence, but don’t notice their attempts to escape whenever you’re home, it is likely they are trying to escape due to separation anxiety.
Attempting to escape is a sign of separation anxiety that could potentially be very dangerous for your puppy and result in self-injury. It could even result in your pup getting out of the house or yard if their space isn’t secure enough.
Destructive acts such as chewing and scratching are common in pets with separation anxiety. You may come home to find that your pup has chewed on door frames, windows, or even destroyed household objects while you were gone. This is another sign of separation anxiety that could be dangerous and result in injury to their teeth, paws, or nails. Not to mention, your home could suffer from serious damage as well!
Drooling or Panting
A sign of separation anxiety that doesn’t often come to mind is excessive drooling and panting. When your dog feels trapped or confined, they may drool or pant out of panic. If you’re coming home to find your dog with wet fur or panting for no reason, they are probably suffering from the anxiety of being in a confined space while you’ve been gone. This is sometimes coupled with pacing if your dog is loose in the house or outside and has room to walk.
If your dog is excessively drooling or panting even when you are home, it’s best to take them to the vet to be sure your pet doesn’t have any medical conditions or allergies causing these reactions.
Attachment When Home
Another sign that your dog may be developing separation anxiety is an increased attachment to you when you are home. If your pet starts following you around more often than usual, especially if you’re about to leave the house, or waits outside the bathroom or behind other closed doors, this is a good sign that your pet is starting to develop fears about you leaving.
Often, if pets are suffering from separation anxiety, they will even sit on your lap or at your feet while you are home, trying to maintain as much closeness as possible before you leave again.
Why Do Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?
It is not always easy to determine why your pup may be developing separation anxiety. You may never know why the sudden nervousness came from. However, if there have been significant changes to your dog’s life or life in your household, these changes could be the cause of your dog’s attachment.
Changes in residence, schedule, or family members can all cause dogs large amounts of stress. Pets are creatures of habit and love routine, so any change in their day-to-day life can leave them anxious and want the protection of their owner, making it stressful when you leave them at home.
Treatments for Separation Anxiety
Mild separation anxiety can be treated simply by leaving a distraction for your pup while you’re gone. Giving your dog a chew toy they will be distracted by for 20 to 30 minutes, such as a chew toy with food inside that they have to work to get out, will do two things. First, it will distract your dog from your absence, and second, it will help your dog learn to associate the treat in the toy with the time they’ve spent alone, helping them to get used to it.
For more severe separation anxiety, you can contact a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist to help organize a multi-step separation anxiety treatment that involves a series of steps taken by the owner to help your pup become more desensitized and comfortable with your leaving for longer periods. This can take much longer and be much more difficult than a simple distraction, so contacting a professional to help with this process is essential.