Like infants and toddlers, it’s not uncommon for dogs to experience separation anxiety. And hearing your dog barking and whining incessantly behind the front door is a stressful experience for many owners. True separation anxiety goes beyond a bit of whimpering or slight mischief. It is a physiological response that our canine is in distress.

Why Do Dogs Become Anxious?

There are a number of reasons dogs can experience a period of separation anxiety. The most common include:

  • Puppies that are not used to being left alone
  • Trauma from abandonment
  • A change of ownership
  • The loss of a family member the dog has bonded to
  • A significant change in routine
  • A move
  • Being rehomed from a shelter

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

Indicators that your pup may have separation anxiety include:

  • Excessive and persistent barking that only ends when the owner is near
  • Destructive acts like chewing household items or clawing at the walls and doors
  • Urinating or defecating in the house
  • Intense pacing
  • Escape attempts that may be harmful to the dog

Working Towards Independence

When our pets are in distress, it can be just as difficult on us humans. If we want our furry companions to experience a full and happy life, that means they need to be comfortable with us leaving them from time to time. Where can you start if your canine is experiencing separation anxiety?

1. Establish a Routine

A day filled with predictability can be extremely soothing for anxious pets. A routine that includes specific times for feeding, exercise, play, training and elimination can help dogs with separation anxiety feel at ease when they are left alone.

2. Provide for All Their Needs

If your dog is not getting enough exercise, love or attention, this will likely exacerbate their anxiety. Many pet owners are extremely busy. With work, family obligations and social lives, the reality is that we sometimes neglect to give our pets what they really need. A dog with separation anxiety will require more care and attention than one without.

3. Conditioning

Some dogs will respond well to training that results in positive rewards. The goal is to condition your dog that your leaving can be a “good” experience for them. One of the best ways to do this is to offer your dog a food-stuffed toy (like a Kong) that is not only a tasty treat, but will also give them 20 or 30 minutes of engaged effort.

4. Behavior Therapy

Sometimes, behavior that results from separation anxiety can be too difficult to resolve without expert help. Certified behavior therapists can help by working with both the pet and the owner to find solutions that calm and reassure the anxious dog.

5. Medication

In severe cases of separation anxiety, medication may be a helpful treatment option. Other therapies should be combined with medication. Ultimately, we do not want the pet to be on medication for a lifetime.

Local Vet in Gilbert

Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that should always be intentionally treated. Although dealing with a pet that is experiencing separation anxiety is stressful and sometimes inconvenient, our pets deserve to live their best possible life. Helping your pet will likely take time and a good deal of effort, but they are worth it.

If you’re unsure where to get started or how to help your anxious pet, give us a call at East Valley Animal Hospital. We’ll be sure to help you find the resources you need!


Photo by Michelle Tresemer on Unsplash (8/28/2020)