What is separation anxiety in dogs?
Separation anxiety affects dogs in the same way it affects humans. As a result, it is critical that you make them feel appreciated and at ease before you leave. One of the most prevalent complaints when pet owners leave their pets alone is that they are disruptive or destructive. Pets can often urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, or dig. These concerns can indicate that a dog needs to be taught good house manners, but they can also indicate unhappiness.
Separation anxiety is also led by the human’s anxiety towards leaving their dog alone at home; we need to train ourselves as well as our dogs to deal with it. Sploot had arranged an informative webinar for all of its users, a dog behaviourist, Malvika Manjunath gave us a very detailed description of separation anxiety in dogs and what to do about it. She decided to study dogs after she experienced trouble with her own pet and has trained from the USA.
What is separation anxiety in dogs?
When a dog's problems are accompanied by other distress behaviours, such as drooling and showing fear when his pet owners prepare to leave the house, it isn't a sign that the dog isn't house trained or doesn't know which toys are his to chew. Instead, they are signs of a dog's separation anxiety. When dogs are away from their guardians or the humans to whom they are connected, they experience separation anxiety. Separation anxiety dogs' escape attempts can be extreme, leading to self-injury and household ruin, especially near departure points such as windows and doors.
What are the trigger points?
Some dogs with separation anxiety get anxious when their caretakers prepare to leave. Others act frightened or depressed before or after their guardians leave, or while their guardians are not there. Some people make an effort to prevent their guardians from leaving. When a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety alone for a short length of time—often minutes—the dog will begin barking and showing other distress behaviours. The dog acts as though he hasn't seen his mother or father in years when the guardian returns home! The goal of educating a dog with separation anxiety to appreciate, or at the absolute least accept, being left alone is to lessen the dog's underlying dread. This is accomplished by arranging things in such a way that the dog experiences the situation that concerns him, namely being alone, without becoming fearful or nervous.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety:
• Urinating and defecating
Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their caretakers. It's doubtful that a dog's house soiling is caused by separation anxiety if he urinates or defecates in the presence of his guardian.
• Barking and howling
A dog with separation anxiety may yelp or wail when left alone or separated from his guardian. This form of barking or weeping is continuous, and it appears to be triggered only by being left alone.
• Chewing, digging, and annihilation
Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on things, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and gateways, or destroy home possessions when left alone or separated from their guardians. Self-injury can occur as a result of these actions, including broken teeth, cut and scraped paws, and damaged nails. If a dog's chewing, digging, or destruction is caused by separation anxiety, it usually does not happen while he is with his guardian. Aggressive dog body language can also be noticed in some dogs!
Whenever a dog with separation anxiety is left alone or separated from his guardian, he may want to flee the confines of his surroundings. The dog may try to dig and bite its way through doors or windows, causing self-injury such as broken teeth, cut and scraped front paws, and torn nails. If the dog's escape behaviour is caused by separation anxiety, it does not occur while his guardian is around.
Some dogs will walk or trot along a specific path in a known pattern when left alone or separated from their guardians. Some pacing dogs travel in circular patterns, while others pace back and forth in straight lines. Normally, pacing behaviour in a dog suffering from separation anxiety does not occur if his guardian is there.
When left alone or away from their guardians, some dogs defecate and then consume all or part of their faeces. If a dog eats faeces because of separation anxiety, he is unlikely to do it in the presence of his guardian.
What can you do to avoid separation anxiety?
• Puppy separation anxiety may be avoided with proper socialisation and training.
Puppies should be socialised with other animals as well as people (See handout "Puppy Behavior and Training - Socialization and Fear Prevention"). Puppies must learn to spend time alone while playing with their toys. Make sure your puppy is quietly playing with his toys when you bring him out of his alone time to interact with the family. Reward your dog for the acts you want him to repeat. A well-adjusted puppy will do well alone or with the family, and will have less separation anxiety in the future.
• Establish a predictable schedule.
Because your dog is frightened, whether you are at home or away, you should begin by making his day more tranquil and predictable. Create a consistent schedule for your dog so that he may learn to anticipate when he will receive attention (for example, during exercise, feeding, training, play, and elimination) and when he will not (when it should be napping or playing its favoured toys). During your regular departure hours, schedule these intervals for object play and sleep.
• Improving your dog's surroundings by meeting his or her needs
Make sure you're meeting all of your dog's needs for social interaction, play, exercise, training, and elimination while you're interacting with him. In effect, you should start regular engagement sessions and provide enough play and attention so that your dog is ready to rest and calm down after each one. Fresh exploratory and chew toys may be given to your dog at this time so that he has something new to focus on when it's time to relax. To make feeding time more of a mental and physical challenge, feeding toys can be utilised instead of traditional meal plates.
· Learn how to "settle" on your own (see Teaching Calm - Settle and Relaxation Training).
The goal of training is to teach your dog to relax on command. Make sure your dog is relaxed and relaxing on his bed or mat before giving him a reward (or kennel). Attention-seeking behaviour should not only be ignored, but any casual contact should be avoided for the first few weeks to ensure that both you and your dog realise that a settled reply is rewarded while attention seeking is not. To practise down stays and mat exercises, use food lures, clicker training, or head halter training, whichever is most effective. Before getting attention, affection, rewards, or play, shape longer visits and longer hours on the bed or mat.
To know properly if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety it is very important to notice if it is displaying aggressive, dog body language. Anxious dogs usually have a tendency of displaying their anxiousness to their humans and expect us to understand it. Taking dog behaviour training, or contacting a dog behaviourist near yourself and understanding your dogs behaviour is very important!