Creating positive experiences for your dog before you leave can help reduce its anxiety.
Dogs are a true companion animal. They want to be a companion to you as well as have companionship. It is common for puppies to bark, whimper or howl for a while when left alone. As good things happen for the puppy as you leave, like a toy filled with treats, the dog learns to like you leaving. They are not upset and learn how to be independent. If a dog has learned that a crate is a good place by getting fed or receiving a special toy in there, then they settle in to the crate well.
If a dog has not had consistent positive use of a crate or area of confinement, then it will see the crate as a place of isolation. This creates the frustration of isolation and results in pawing, chewing or breaking out of a crate. The dog resists going into the crate, and the more it is forced the more anxious and upset it becomes. Panting, following you around the house, whining and nipping at a housemate dog are all signs of separation anxiety.
The anxiety a dog experiences in separation from the owner or other companion can escalate to panic. This is where the dog is trying to escape the home by digging at the doorways, in to the crate well. windows, biting at door handles, crate doors or even breaking out of the crate. House soiling, drooling or even vomiting can be a sign of anxiety. It can be very perplexing to try to figure out why a house-trained dog is now urinating when you are gone.
The key to treating separation anxiety is having a positive experience for the dog while you are preparing to leave and when you are actually gone. When your dog is amped up enough to chew on the home, urinate, drool or yowl they are so upset they cannot learn. Dogs may need the help of medication, and you may need a specific plan to identify their triggers in the home. These dogs are suffering, and many end up eating objects that need surgery to be removed or damage their own teeth.
Separation anxiety can affect the bond with the owner, the health of the pet and the state of the home. Anxiety always gets worse over time without proper intervention. Please don’t let your dog suffer.
Dr. Sally J. Foote, is veterinarian with her own practice, Okaw Veterinary Clinic. She is also a Certified Animal Behaviorist Consultant through the IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants). She is Interim Executive Director of Cattle Dog Publishing, publisher of the book, Perfect Puppy in 7 Days and the companion DVD, Creating the Perfect Puppy, which contains a wealth of training tips for dogs and puppies. You can find those products, as well as informative blogs on canine anxiety at drsophiayin.com.