True Separation Anxiety is a clinical disorder in which the dog has a physical, uncontrollable response to being left alone. The dog may become very destructive, drool, spin, defecate, urinate, and hurt themselves (or a combination of these) any time the owner leaves.
While it’s true that being left alone can cause your dog some level of distress, what actually matters most is how the dog owner behaves when they come home. Many dogs develop Separation Anxiety because of the adrenaline and epinephrine rush that happens when their owners come home to greet them.
Dog owners can unintentionally cause Separation Anxiety by making an event of returning home. For example, the dog owner walks in the door, and the first thing they do is shower attention and affection on the dog. They are happy to reunite with their furry family member, but what they don’t realize is, day after day, the dog begins to expect this adrenaline party. When his expectations aren’t met, he starts to get anxious.
Each time the dog hears a noise outside, or sees a silhouette of a person out the window, he wonders if just might be his owner coming home. Over the course of the day, this anticipation builds until finally, the dog is worked up into a frenzy. Studies show that the majority of the destruction caused by a dog with Separation Anxiety happens within 30 minutes of the owner returning home, not leaving.
Separation Anxiety develops over time, and if you notice that your dog is starting to panic while you are away, there are steps you can take to be sure your dog’s anxiety can be managed. Here are some simple techniques to help your dog be comfortable with being left alone for reasonable periods of time:
1. Crate train your pooch. Teach your dog that the kennel is a comfortable, safe place to relax while you’re away.
2. Get in a training session (or exercise) with your dog before you leave. A dog with less energy to burn is more likely to relax.
3. Don’t make a big deal out of coming home, or leaving. For five minutes before leaving and after returning home, don’t greet your dog. Take a few moments to get settled in before acknowledging your dog-buddy. That way you don’t build excitement and feelings of anxiousness into the routine of leaving or returning to the house.