What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a behavioural term for the reaction of an overly bonded dog to his owner’s departure. It is a common behavioural problem often resulting in a lot of stress for the owner, their neighbours and the dog itself.
Why Bond so Strongly?
Dogs are group living animals. There is safety in numbers, food is more obtainable and there is warmth. Our dogs want to be with us. When they can’t be, they fret and often try to get back to us. They do this by calling us (barking, howling), by seeking us out (escaping, roaming, digging) or by staying close to our scent (chewing).
Symptoms of separation anxiety
Common symptoms of separation anxiety include barking and whining, escaping and roaming, scratching at gates/doors, inappropriate toileting behaviour, chewing, digging and general destructive behaviour. (These can be caused by other behavioural problems too.) In general, a dog suffering from separation anxiety will begin these unwanted behaviours immediately after the owner’s departure.
Solving the problem involves working to gradually separate owner and dog, while reducing the dog’s stress at the event. The process is gradual and is best achieved by going at the dog’s pace. “Quick fixes” normally result in the underlying cause not being addressed and failure to alleviate the symptoms (or other symptoms emerging).
In some cases separation anxiety may respond to veterinary medication. Clomicalm or Prozac may be drug used in this situation and are only available from your vet. These will have the best chance of success when accompanied by a behavioural treatment plan.
Can cats gets separation anxiety?
Cats can suffer from separation anxiety too, although when cats get anxious they are more likely to sleep for long periods of time.
Some of the tips given for dogs will help with cats too.
Basically, any animals that has bonded to you or another animal may suffer from separation anxiety. Birds often form a pair bond with their owner and may fret when left alone. Similar treatments will help alleviate anxiety.
More help for separation anxiety
Dr Jo has written an ebook which covers anxiety in dogs, including separation anxiety...
Solutions for separation anxiety
Short-term solutions: Home Alone
When a dog is left alone they are often comforted by certain things an owner can do to make his time alone less stressful. These include:
Long-term solutions: Home Together
It is useful for owners to teach their dog to accept being alone. The following can help: