Does your beloved pooch howl the house down, soil all over the place or destroy your furniture and/or belongings, when left home alone? If so, then there’s a strong chance little Fido suffers from separation anxiety. This is not uncommon in pet dogs, and is something that can be overcome with time, dedication and patience, but it may not be the only cause of your dogs’ unwelcome behaviour. Before figuring out if your pet dog suffers from separation anxiety, you should rule out these other common causes first:
- Your pet soils inside the house
Pet dogs who are left alone, and who haven’t been trained to wait and do their business outside, may do it freely inside when you’re not there to let them out. Some dogs will also need to pee more frequently than others.
- You get back after a few hours to find your furniture has been chewed
Pets left alone may need toys or some other form of mental stimuli to keep them occupied and to prevent them from resorting to destroying your furniture or belongings to keep themselves entertained. A long walk before they are left alone, may also help.
- The neighbours have complained about constant barking from your pet dog
If your pet dog hears a noise outside or sees other dogs or people through the window, they may bark in response when left alone. They may still respond to these sights or noises when you are home with them, but it may not be in the form of barking, particularly if you have shown them that such behaviour is not acceptable. Left alone, they may bark incessantly and cause problems for your neighbours, but it need not necessarily be because they are feeling anxious in your absence.
However, if your pet has had plenty of exercise before being left alone, is sufficiently toilet trained and has plenty of toys to keep them occupied in your absence, but they still demonstrate the types of behaviour illustrated above, then they may well suffer from separation anxiety.
How can you treat separation anxiety?
Simply suppressing this behaviour is not enough, it’s vital that pet owners do their best to prevent their pet dog from becoming anxious in the first place. Punishing their anxiety related behaviour generally makes matters worse, so the best solution is to try and ensure that your pet can be content without relying on you. Don’t respond when they try to get your attention by barking, whining or pawing at you, instead, reward them when they display relaxed behaviour, such as lying quietly or playing with their toys.
It’s also important to teach your dog that it’s okay to be left alone, and this can be done effectively using a desensitisation and counter conditioning program. By gradually exposing your dog to that which frightens them – in this case being left alone – and gradually increasing the time frame in which they are alone, they no longer view it as something scary and their anxiety will slowly reduce.
Dogs can suffer from a wide range of psychological issues, most of which are easy to treat provided you seek professional help, and are willing to devote enough time to helping your pet overcome their problems. A well-rounded pet that is a pleasure to be in the company of, is what every pet owner strives for, but this doesn’t often happen without a lot of hard work and dedication, and it’s almost always worth it.