Separation anxiety in dogs
Dogs can’t communicate the same way humans can. That means it’s our job to pay special attention to our dog’s behavior and to recognize changes and patterns, especially when it comes to unfamiliar situations or changes in routine.
As dog owners, we have an obligation to treat dogs with the same love and attention as we would our own children. With that in mind, I feel that we should think of separation anxiety in dogs the same way as we would in humans. Or more specifically, children.
Please note: Always seek advice from your veterinary professional for any medical or behavioral issues. The information in this article is published based on personal experience and research only.
What is separation anxiety in dogs?
Separation anxiety in dogs is commonly referenced as a behavioral problem. But in humans, it’s referenced as a type of mental health problem.
I think it’s fair to say that in this day and age, the majority of dog owners have become very attached to their 4 legged friends, and I don’t think anybody could argue that domesticated dogs have a dependency on their owners.
Whilst it’s not fully understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others don’t when you break it down to its simplest form, separation anxiety is when you and your dog have spent too much time together over an extended period of time (days, weeks, months, or years), and your routine has “suddenly” changed.
What causes separation anxiety in dogs?
As with many disorders in both humans and animals alike, there is no single reason that causes separation anxiety in dogs.
Having said that, separation anxiety in dogs can most often be attributed to a dog not being used to spending time alone or spending time away from specific individuals with whom they would otherwise spend all of their time. This causes a panic response in the dog, which can be expressed in various behavior across different dogs.
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs
While not an exhaustive list of potential signs of separation anxiety in dogs, the following list should give you an idea of unusual behaviors that are commonly associated with separation anxiety in dogs:
- Anxious behaviors can be expressed by pacing, whining, or trembling while you’re gone, or as you prepare to leave.
- Excessive barking or howling when you have left your home.
- Excessive panting, drooling, and/or salivation.
- Excessive itching, biting, or any other potential forms of self-harm.
- Potty accidents inside the house, including both urine and defecation.
- Attempts to escape, which could include excessive and destructive chewing or digging around doors and/or windows.
- Prolonged and/or desperate attempts to escape confinement, which could potentially end in minor or serious injuries.
You should be able to notice any other unfamiliar behavior in your dog at times of stress. If these behaviors aren’t listed above, take a mental (or physical) note of them for use later so you can mention them when you next visit your vet.
Small dog breeds are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety
There are lots of articles to be found online about specific dog breeds that are more or less prone to suffering from separation anxiety. Whilst it is possible to associate common breed character traits for things such as hypoallergenic dogs for apartment living, such categorization isn’t really possible with separation anxiety.
The sad truth is that any and all dog breeds can suffer from separation anxiety.
Based on multiple studies, the following article suggests that small breeds were significantly more anxious than larger breeds, and therefore, small breeds are more susceptible to separation anxiety.
Having said that, there are breeds that are less likely to suffer from separation anxiety. The reason these small dog breeds are less prone to suffer from separation anxiety is due to how affectionate, and how intelligent the breed is.
6 small dog breeds less prone to separation anxiety
The logic here is based on a high affection level suggests a potentially higher level of attachment. The high intelligence suggests a dog is able to occupy itself in the absence of its owner.
How to treat separation anxiety in dogs
There are various different ways of potentially treating separation anxiety in dogs, but there is no single trick that will solve the problem for every dog.
Each dog will have different separation anxiety trigger points, and the level of anxiety the dog feels can be different day-to-day. But by introducing a routine that you follow on most days, basic crate training, learning to introduce and emphasize social cues, and using distraction techniques, it is possible to train and desensitize your dog’s panic response and reduce separation anxiety.
7 Top Tips to reduce separation anxiety in dogs
- Dogs rely heavily on social cues for communication, so use this to your advantage. Try to get in the habit of using the same behavior pattern when you leave the house, in both actions and words.
- Don’t make a big deal of leaving the house, or when you come home. This means talking to your dog in a calm voice both when you leave and when you return.
- If your dog is already crate trained, place something they love inside the dog crate as you prepare to leave. Maybe an item of unwashed clothing, their favorite toy, or even a chew bone. This will help to take their focus, and the crate will remain a calming place of refuge for them.
- If your dog isn’t crate trained, then crate training will be hugely beneficial for both you and your dog. When crate trained, the crate becomes a dog’s safe place where he can get away and feel safe from any hustle and bustle. Never use the crate as a place for punishment.
- If background noise such as music, radio, or TV is normal when you are at home, this can prove to be a familiar element for your dog. As creatures of habit, your dog will benefit from having this background noise when you’re not there, too! Especially radio or TV, as these mediums tend to have regularly scheduled shows and soundbites that your dog will learn to associate with specific times of the day.
- Make a conscious effort to leave your dog at home for at least 5-10 minutes every day. Whether that is to do some gardening, a quick visit to the local store, or just sitting outside. Remember your social cues and behavior patterns, as mentioned in item #1.
- As much as possible, try to keep daily routines the same. Dogs are creatures of habit, and your behavior patterns will guide them through most of their day.
Using CBD Oil for dog anxiety
You may have heard about CBD oil (Cannabidiol) and the benefits it can have for dogs suffering from separation anxiety.
CBD is a compound extracted from the cannabis plant, or hemp, then diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or hemp seed oil.
CBD oil does not create a “high” or any form of intoxication often associated with cannabis, as it does not contain THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).
FAQs about dog separation anxiety
Will having 2 dogs help with separation anxiety?
While getting another dog may potentially bring some comfort to your anxious dog, ultimately, it won’t cure separation anxiety.
In fact, the reality is you could end up with 2 dogs with separation anxiety!
Can separation anxiety cause seizures in dogs?
Seizures commonly occur due to a change in activity due to environment, foods, medication, and stress.
As separation anxiety is effectively a panic response caused by alleviated stress, it is certainly possible for a seizure to be triggered by separation anxiety.
If your dog has some kind of seizure disorder, such as idiopathic epilepsy, which is typically inherited, then you’ll be aware of potential triggers.
For those of you who suspect your dog has had a seizure, please seek advice from your veterinary professional.
Does dog daycare help with separation anxiety?
There are arguments for both sides regarding whether doggy daycare helps with separation anxiety. But the truth is, as with answers to most questions, it depends.
You need to remember the cause of separation anxiety and be able to accurately associate it with a specific trigger.
If your dog spends all of its time with you, and you alone, going to doggy daycare isn’t going to be a solution. And I hate to say it, but doggy daycare is unlikely to tell you honestly that your pooch didn’t cope, as that would mean a loss in business.
If you recently adopted your dog, and he hasn’t yet become acclimatized to routine, then there is a chance that doggy daycare could work for your dog.
If your dog has recently lost an animal or human companion, then dog daycare is unlikely to solve the problem of separation anxiety.
In fact, familiar surroundings at home might be where he feels most secure and comfortable.
Does CBD oil help with dog separation anxiety?
Yes, CBD helps dogs with anxiety.
In fact, CBD oil can help relieve stress in a number of situations, including separation anxiety, loud noises like fireworks and thunder, vet visits, and car rides.
Recent studies suggest that cannabidiol is the new “potential treatment for anxiety disorders” due to its calming effect. Also, CBD for pets is not psychoactive, so it can’t get your dog “high.”
CBD is a natural cure for dog anxiety that comes from the Cannabis plant, or more specifically, from hemp.
CBD products for dogs are safe because they are made from hemp extracts. But the FDA has not approved CBD for dogs with anxiety.