Separation Anxiety. Does your dog get anxious when you are not home? Is your dog destructive when you leave him or her alone? Learn about this SA in dogs...

Separation Anxiety

Do you wonder what your dog does when you're not at home? Some dogs sleep, some need something to chew on to occupy their time and some spend the time terrorizing the cat. But when a dog has this disorder, it is a traumatic time when they are left home.

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SA is a form of mental illness that affects some dogs. When their owners are preparing to leave, the dog becomes extremely upset and anxious. After the owners leave, he/she becomes frantic and is no longer in control of how it behaves. The dog becomes panicked; a panic caused by over-stimulation of parts of the brain – the parts that regulate fear and stress.

It is important to note that not every dog that misbehaves while its owners are away has separation anxiety. Some are just naturally destructive.

Dogs are extremely social critters; they do best living in “packs” and forming strong bonds with their owners. Most don’t like it when their owners leave, but learn to handle it. Others exhibit mild forms of the misbehaviour. Some may misbehave out of boredom, but a dog with severe separation anxiety will be very destructive.

Severe separation anxiety is usually diagnosed when the following three signs are present:

  • Destruction – the dog will literally destroy the house, chewing through walls and doors; any exit points are the targets. This destruction usually occurs within the first ½ hour after the owner leaves.
  • Vocalization – the dog will bark or howl continuously, for hours on end or all-day.
  • Elimination – the dog will eliminate in the house.
Some dogs have a predisposition to this problem, others get it as a result of a traumatic experience.

Dogs with separation anxiety are generally wonderful pets - when the owners are home. However, when the owners leave they turn into a destructive dog. They tend to get more and more upset each time the owners leave. Having another pet does not usually help the problem. It is the owners that they are extremely attached to and need.

To help these dogs:
Medication such as anti-depressants and anxiety drugs need to be used in addition to desensitization therapy. Desensitization therapy involves having the dog sit and stay as the owner gradually moves away, moving a little further each time. Eventually the owner steps out of the room while the dog stays. The aim of this therapy is to teach the dog that the owner will always return and to take the scariness out of the owners departure. There is no quick fix for this problem; desensitization therapy takes lots of work and time.

While retraining this type of dog, it may be best to leave them in a crate when no one is home. This helps them by providing them with a safer place that is way from anything that can harm them or that they can destroy.

If your dog has separation anxiety issues, you should contact your local veterinarian.