The term “separation anxiety” is often misunderstood. True clinical separation anxiety is not common. Consult your veterinarian to get a correct diagnosis.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety in dogs is the fear or dislike of isolation, which often results in undesirable behavior. Separation anxiety is one of the most common causes of canine behavioral problems.
If your dog follows you around room to room, becomes anxious even if a closed door separates you, dislikes spending time alone outdoors, and acts depressed or anxious when you are getting ready to leave the house then your dog may have minor separation problems.
If, however, you are having destruction of property (especially around doors or windows), howling and barking, urination and defecation then it is probably severe separation anxiety. Prescribed drugs are sometimes used as a temporary measure along with the behavior modification program. Severe cases require a behavior modification program and desensitization to being alone. This usually takes a very long time.
When left alone, most dogs find a familiar spot and go to sleep. However, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will become extremely anxious.
Separation anxiety occurs when a dog becomes distressed over the absence of other pack members, human, or canine. Not understanding where you or your family has gone or if you will ever return. Your dog’s way of expressing anxiety over your absence may include chewing, barking, salivating, urinating, defecating, vomiting, self-mutilation or escape behavior such as chewing through walls, scratching through doors, busting out of cages or digging under fences (if left outdoors). In some cases, the dog simply gets sick, perhaps due to some form of depression.
Often it is the exits and entrances to the home that the dog targets for destruction.
The destruction is not an attempt to seek revenge on the owner for leaving but is actually a panic response. It can be compared to humans suffering from panic attacks, so even if the physical signs are not obvious the psychological stress can be severe. To help your dog overcome this normal response we need to progress gradually and slowly to minimize the stress. Your goal is to help your dog accept separation without stressing in the first place and to remain calm during prolonged separation.
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