Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit behavior problems when they’re left alone. Typically, they’ll have a dramatic anxiety response within a short time (20–45 minutes) after their owners leave them. The most common of these behaviors are:
- • He’s left alone for long periods of time without opportunities to interact with you.
- • His environment is relatively barren, without companions or toys.
- • He’s a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and doesn’t have other outlets for his energy.
- • He’s a particularly active type of dog (like the herding or sporting breeds) who needs to be occupied to be happy
Why Do Dogs Suffer from Separation Anxiety?
We don’t fully understand why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and, under similar circumstances, others don’t. It’s important to realize, however, that the destruction and house soiling that often occur with separation anxiety are not the dog’s attempt to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone. In reality, they are actually part of a panic response.
Separation anxiety sometimes occurs:
- • When a dog accustomed to constant human companionship is left alone for the first time.
- • Following a long interval, such as a vacation, during which the owner and dog are constantly together.
- • After a traumatic event (from the dog’s point of view), such as a period of time spent at a shelter or boarding kennel.
- • After a change in the family’s routine or structure (such as a child leaving for college, a change in work schedule, a move to a new home, or a new pet or person in the home).
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Separation Anxiety?
Because there are many reasons for the behaviors associated with separation anxiety, it’s essential to correctly diagnose the reason for the behavior before proceeding with treatment. If most, or all, of the following statements are true about your dog, he may have a separation anxiety problem:
- • The behavior occurs exclusively or primarily when he’s left alone.
- • He follows you from room to room whenever you’re home.
- • He displays effusive, frantic greeting behaviors.
- • The behavior always occurs when he’s left alone, whether for a short or long period of time.
- • He reacts with excitement, depression, or anxiety to your preparations to leave the house.
- • He dislikes spending time outdoors by himself.