Believe it or not, humans aren’t the only species that get stressed out: dogs have anxiety too! But unlike their two-legged companions, they can’t tell a therapist about it. However, their behavior can speak a thousand words if you know how to listen! In this article, a Raleigh, NC vet discusses how to spot separation anxiety in your dog and what you can do about it.
Throughout the day you may have several places to be at once: going to work, running errands, picking the kids up from school, just to name a few. But to your furry friend, you walking out the door means one thing: for an indefinite amount of time, their best friend is gone and that scares them. This is separation anxiety in a nutshell: the distress your dog experiences because you’re not around.
Canines are fundamentally social creatures: in the wild they live in packs, meaning they are rarely alone. So it’s no wonder that even the most domesticated dog will seek out similar companionship. You, your family, and your other pets are your dog’s foster-pack, so it makes sense that being isolated would stress him out!
As we mentioned earlier, your dog can’t tell you he’s anxious with words. Instead, dogs will often demonstrate their anxiety by acting out while you’re away and, oftentimes, these actions are misinterpreted as bad behavior. Some examples of this could include using the bathroom where he shouldn’t, destroying furniture, or clawing/ biting your personal belongings. He may get into the trash and scatter it around the house. He could finally defeat his arch nemesis–that pretty pillow you just got–strew it’s fluffy innards all over the couch. And if you have a doggy camera setup, you may notice him pacing around, waiting at the door, barking or howling, or even trying to escape.
As always, the best place to start with anxiety treatment is to consult a professional– in this case, your local NC vet! They’ll be able to give you advice depending on how (and to what severity) your canine is acting out. Besides consulting your doggy doctor, there are a few simple dos and don’ts for treating anxiety on your own:
Give him plenty to do while you’re gone: boredom may be contributing to his restlessness!
Take him to the bathroom before you leave: maybe he’s anxiously awaiting your return because he needs to “go”!
Don’t talk to him as you walk out the door: you may be alerting him to your impending absence!
Be patient with your pup: it can take some time to “unlearn” his anxious habits!
And lastly, don’t get upset if he acts up: dogs don’t understand that their behavior is bad, so punishing them for it will probably confuse them. Instead, rewarding your dog for being good is the better route to behavior modification.
If you suspect that your pup has separation anxiety, or you simply want to learn more about it, contact us –your Raleigh, NC vet–today!