Separation anxiety or separation stress in dogs is a very common problem nowadays and goes beyond the simple fact that “my dog barks when left alone” or “he is not able to be without me”.
If your dog, especially if he is a puppy or if you have recently brought him home, cries when you leave him alone or in a certain situation, consider it normal. Do not confuse it with an anxiety problem in dogs at a pathological level.
What is abandonment syndrome in dogs?
As we said, dog separation stress is a serious behavioral problem that some dogs present when they are left alone at home or when they are separated from one or more of their owners. On some occasions, these dogs show signs of anxiety simply by losing eye contact with the person they have as a reference.
Symptoms of separation stress in dogs
What happens when you leave home and leave your dog alone?
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, at the moment when you leave home every day and the animal is left alone, during the moment of separation he suffers an episode of acute stress. This means that in that specific and punctual situation your dog suffers a very high stress load that can be maintained until you return home.
But, even if you don’t see it or are not aware of it, his organism, like ours, needs several hours to fully recover the state of calm and for cortisol, the stress-related hormone, to return to normal levels.
But the problem doesn’t end there.
The next day you go out again and your dog suffers a new episode of acute stress. And this is how little by little, by maintaining this state for so long on a daily basis, it becomes chronic stress.
It is then when the consequences and symptoms that are more visible and striking appear, and that will help you to know if your dog has separation anxiety:
Barking, whining, whimpering, whining and even howling, depending on the breed. Your dog may repeat them as a ritual with no particular purpose.
Pissing and/or defecating indoors.
If your dog is well accustomed to relieve himself in the street, this unusual behavior may be the clue that something is wrong with him. Of course, you must first rule out other health problems, such as a urinary tract infection.
Try to treat this situation gently and go to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Most of all because if your dog is passing stool at home, you will probably get angry with him, punish him and scold him. And if it is a problem of separation stress, what you will do with this type of response is to worsen the situation.
Digging on the floor, compulsive scratching, chewing on objects… these are innate or normal behaviors in dogs. But if you see that your dog does it continuously for a long time, for no apparent reason and in a repetitive or exaggerated way, it may be a symptom of separation stress in dogs.
All that your dog does with a very high and disproportionate energy level can be considered compulsive behaviors. And it is possible that your dog becomes “addicted” to elements such as sticks, stones, balls, a certain piece of furniture in your house, slippers, etc. And it is for that reason that, when you come home you may see some destruction.
These behaviors can include compulsive mounting of objects, other dogs or people. Keep this in mind and see if he performs these types of actions.
This is one of the most serious consequences of separation stress in dogs. Self-injury can cause the dog to make serious wounds by scratching or nibbling itself.
Diarrhea and vomiting
Separation stress in dogs also causes the digestive system to suffer and diarrhea and vomiting can occur.
Lack of attention
Do you see your dog not concentrating and doing things wrong? You may think he is disobeying you, but if it is an episode of separation stress in dogs, you should try to understand the context, how is he going to do things right if he is disoriented?
Changes in sleep patterns.
It is true that dogs sleep long hours. Between 10 and 14 hours is normal. But if you see that he sleeps longer than he used to or is awake at times when he used to sleep and sleeps at other times that he didn’t before, you can begin to suspect that something is going on with him and that it fits among the symptoms of separation stress in dogs.
Polydipsia is the exaggerated and urgent need to drink. This is something that can happen if there are major conditions such as diabetes. But if your vet has ruled it out, you should look for its causes, among them is separation anxiety.
It is also possible that, during your absence, you avoid leaving him water so that he does not urinate at home. This is a mistake and, logically, your dog will be thirsty and will rush for water as soon as you offer it to him.
Consequences for you of separation stress in dogs
As you can see, separation stress in dogs can be devastating in the long run. What’s worse, we are often unaware of their suffering until it becomes apparent or our neighbors call our attention to their barking and noises.
It is clear that separation anxiety also conditions the people who live with the dog. We were talking a moment ago about the neighbors who can denounce you or can make your dog’s situation worse if they bang on the door or the walls when you are not there.
In addition, this problem can be very frustrating for you and can even condition your routine or your social life. You may decide to reduce your outings for fear of leaving your dog alone, which is not good for you.
Not to mention the damage to your home, which can be a financial problem or a nuisance if an object you were fond of is broken.
How to treat separation anxiety in dogs?
Although separation stress in dogs is a cause for concern, both because of its high incidence and its serious consequences, the good news is that most dogs recover.
Therefore, if you have a dog suffering from separation anxiety, don’t hesitate and treat it as soon as possible. In a matter of just a few months, your dog will be recovered and will be able to live a normal life, and so will you!
You can ask your veterinarian or a dog training and education professional for help, or you can learn how to do it yourself.
If you are wondering how you can try to avoid stress in a dog, from Las Almenas we provide you with these tips:
1. Teach him to stay alone from the beginning.
If your dog is used to being accompanied all day, every day, it is easier for him to generate separation stress in dogs any time he is left alone. However, if you get him used to being left alone from the time he is a puppy, everything will be better.
Ideally, you should teach him to be left alone in a calm manner. To do this, even if you don’t need to leave him alone, do it progressively. This way, the day you need to leave him alone, he will not suffer separation stress in dogs.
2. Procure that he sleeps alone
There is nothing wrong with sharing a sofa or bed with your furry friend, but make sure he is able to sleep alone in other spaces. This way, when you are not there, he has to be able to sleep without having a traumatic night and without generating a state of separation stress in dogs.
3. Facilitate toys and entertainment
To make your absence more bearable, provide him with interactive toys that will keep him stimulated. Give them to him when you are leaving home, so he will associate the moment of your departure with play, with something positive.
When you return home it is important that you remove that object of play so that he does not get used to it and so that he can continue to be interested in it for a while.
When you return home, wait until he calms down and relaxes to pay attention to him. This is when you can reward him with your caresses and words of affection.
You have to be his reference of calm, security and source of learning. This is how you will be able to establish a healthy bond with your furry friend and enjoy both your company.
5. No punishment
If during your absence, your dog has made a mess, do not punish him. Remember that dogs are not capable of associating a reward or punishment with something they did hours ago. If you do, he will not understand why you are punishing him and he will be more confused.
6. Find time for him to exercise
When you’ve arrived home and your dog has calmed down, it’s time to grab the leash and take him for a walk with you so he can play, run and socialize with other dogs, which is also important for him.
In this way you are helping your dog to maintain a good physical and mental health. Keep in mind that all that energy accumulated during the day is a source of stress and anxiety, so with exercise he will spend that energy and feel more relaxed when he gets home.
In short, routines, training, social life and also moments of solitude will help your dog to predict what comes next.
From Las Almenas we hope that all these tips will help you to detect and avoid any problem of separation stress in dogs, but if you have any doubt, ask us. Here below you have your space to tell us if your dog has had separation anxiety and leave us your experience and recommendations, so we all learn from each other!