VCA Animal Hospitals

Recognizing separation anxiety in dogs

Published: Sep 21, 2012

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One of the best feelings after a long day at work is coming home to an excited canine companion. Dogs can give the warmest of welcomes, but sometimes, their love and attachment to their owner can become too strong, causing what's known as separation anxiety in dogs. It's natural for dogs to be excited by their owners, but if your canine is experiencing stress at your departure, it may be time to step in and help quell his fears.

What are the signs of separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety can exhibit itself in a number of ways, but typically, if your dog shows visible signs of distress when you are preparing to leave home, then he could be suffering from the affliction. He may also be unable to relax while home alone. If your neighbors tell you they can hear your dog barking or whining after you've left, or if you come home to find items chewed up, these may be signs that your dog is anxious while you're away.

Though over-attachment to a human companion is a common cause of this affliction, your dog could also be anxious because of a recent change in his lifestyle. Such changes could include a move to a new home, a family member who left for college or for other reasons, or a new schedule at your work.

How can I help alleviate my dog's stress when I am leaving?

When you're getting ready to leave your home for an extended period of time, do your best to ignore any attempts your canine makes for attention. It may be tempting to try and soothe him while he's showing signs of stress, but you should reserve your positive attention for when he has calmed down, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. As your dog learns to relax over a period of days or weeks, you can begin to increase the length of time he must wait before you give him attention.

You can also try and identify the actions that make your dog become anxious. For instance, perhaps your dog realizes you are planning on leaving when he hears the sound of your keys jangling, or notices you putting on shoes. Isolate these actions, and encourage your dog to become calm between each one. Reward him when he's successful.

How can I calm my canine when I get home?

Once again, it may be difficult, but when you return home, you must try to ignore your dog until he has calmed down. After he has settled, you can initiate a play session so he understands his calm attitude means he'll receive a reward.

If your dog is active and anxious while you're away, you may want to consider crate training. Many canines will relax when they have a small space to call their own, and it will also make it easier for you to return home quietly without waking your dog, provided you keep his crate somewhere away from the door.

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