Separation Anxiety in Dogs Who Fear Being Left Alone
Separation anxiety in dogs who fear being left alone is something a lot of dog owners struggle with. Especially if they have a dog who has been diagnosed with this particular type of canine anxiety disorder. Separation anxiety involves the dog becoming disruptive or destructive when it is left alone, feelings overwhelm them and they become terrified when left by themselves.
Now don’t get me wrong. Dogs are wonderful companions for their owners. And most dog lovers choose to never be without their darling pet if they can help it. But we have to work, go to class or go shopping. Therefore, we need to train our overly-anxious dog to calmly accept being left alone for various periods of time.
But separation anxiety in dogs develops when a dog is put in a situation it does not know. It becomes terrified and fearful. Bonfire nights and fireworks are common flashpoints, causing dogs in this situation to become stressed and worked up with what we see as nothing. But to them it is everything.
Anxiety is part of a dog’s “fight or flight” response, causing a variety of physiological changes to occur:
- Hormones are released
- Neurotransmitters develop
- Acute stress responses occur
- Altogether, these can cause a variety of physiological changes to develop in the dogs
When dogs feel threatened in some way, whether the threat is real or not, terrifying fear takes over. Some dogs react by showing aggression, while others display anxiety. Your dog may panic, tremble, try to hide or run away, howl and cry, pee or have projectile diarrhea. It’s frightening for the dog and equally upsetting for you, the owner.
The most common causes of separation anxiety in dogs
Here are the most common causes of separation anxiety in dogs and how best to help your dog if he or she is affected.
Dog anxiety to deal with
Separation anxiety in dogs is a very common problem, particularly in rescue dogs. For thousands of years, dogs have lived side by side with humans. Obviously, we have developed a strong bond with them. Unlike cats, dogs intensely dislike being left alone. If you go out and leave your dog home alone all day, he will probably become anxious and depressed. He may even trash your house.
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Fireworks and loud noises
Dogs hate loud noises unless they have been trained around them. When bonfire night comes around and fireworks start going off they become extremely stressed and anxious.
Unfortunately, bonfire night tends to extend for several days either side of November 5, which makes it very difficult to keep an anxious dog calm. It is sensible not to walk your dog after dusk, to avoid being outside when fireworks are going off, but some dogs react badly even when indoors. Try wrapping up your dog in a Thundershirt if he gets stressed out by fireworks and loud bangs.
Dogs are susceptible to the stress caused by moving home. It’s bad enough for us, so imagine how stressful it is for a dog who doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. Fortunately, this type of stress usually passes once you have settled into your new home.
An abused dog or a dog from a rescue center will probably exhibit some degree of anxiety. He may have been passed from one home to another, which will trigger separation anxiety, or he may have been physically abused by a cruel owner. It is important that you have access to behavioural experts when you take on a rescue dog with a history of abuse, as they can be difficult to rehabilitate.
Illness and Aging
Severe anxiety can sometimes be triggered by illness, so if you can find no other reason for your dog’s anxiety or behavioural problems, have him checked out by a vet. Senior dogs are also prone to anxiety because of changes to the dog’s nervous system.
Some dogs react badly when they travel. They pant, drool, vomit, and refuse to settle down. Benadryl can help calm a dog with travel anxiety.
Look closely at why your dog is anxious. If in doubt about the underlying cause, have him checked out by a veterinarian.