Separation anxiety or Boredom? Defining the Difference

Separation anxiety - martyAre you coming home to find your pup has gone haywire in your home?  Has your dog started to display destructive behavior?  This could be a sign that he is experiencing separation anxiety.

Signs of separation anxiety:

When you are preparing to leave, does your pup start to pace?  While you are away does your dog howl or bark non-stop?  Does your pup use the restroom in doors while you are at work?  And do you come home to find things chewed up, and other forms of destruction all around your home? Many dogs will also try to escape when they experience separation anxiety too.    This can be very dangerous as a dog with extreme separation anxiety can hurt himself pretty badly.   For example, he can bust his teeth, rip nails out of his paws by clawing away at the door or even jump through a window, which can be deadly.

Separation anxiety – when it’s not:

Sometimes we can mistake behavior issues as separation anxiety.  In Nicole Wilde’s book, “Don’t Leave Me!” she advises that behaviors resulting from separation anxiety are not random.  They exist in a pattern, meaning – each and every time that a dog is left alone, he will exhibit the destructive behavior.  Although, the separation anxiety may be manifested in different destructive behaviors  – chewing one day, peeing on the carpet another, and howling or barking on another day.  Again the hard and fast rule is that destructive behavior occurs every time the dog is left alone.  Otherwise, the owner needs to consider boredom and lack of physical and mental stimulation as the root.

What triggers separation anxiety?

While there are no clear cut definitive reasons why a dog experiences separation anxiety, it has been noted that a majority of the ones who do have been adopted from a shelter or rescue.  This anxiety is not normally exhibited by a pup that has remained with their family since they were a puppy.  It is thought that perhaps bouncing back and forth between “homes” generates feelings of instability in their home life.  They never know if the next time you leave them is really the last time they will see you.  It is also thought that when there has been a death of a guardian, this can trigger separation anxiety.  The dog may want to go out into the world to try and find their guardian.  Other triggers may involve a change in the dog’s routine.  If the owner begins to works longer hours, or spends less time at home that can be a big enough routine disruption for the dog.

How to help your dog deal with separation anxiety:

First take your pup to the vet for a thorough check up!  Ensure that this behavior has nothing to do with an illness or reactions to any medications they may be taking.  Once that has been ruled out, try working with your pup on easing the separation anxiety.  Perhaps grab your keys and just walk around the house with them.  This can show your dog that just because you are picking up your keys, doesn’t mean you’re heading out the door.  When you leave, try to do so for shorter periods of time.  Ease into leaving them alone for the longer periods.  This will show your pup that when you leave, you are coming back.  This will help ease some of their anxiety when you leave them alone.  However, in Nicole Wilde’s book “Don’t Leave Me!” she mentions that before you attempt behavior modification, you need to put in place a Firm Foundation Program.  In her book she details the four pillars of a firm foundation: management, nutrition, exercise, and confidence building.

Call us at Daily Dog Walkers and Pet sitters here in Fort Lauderdale!  We can help your dog with separation anxiety by stopping in for a visit or two each day! We can help build your dog’s firm foundation which will help eliminate stress and the destructive behavior.

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