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Separation anxiety affects nearly one out of 15 dogs, but you can alleviate the stress your pal feels when you're away. Here's how.
When you get ready to leave your house, does your dog whine or act depressed? When you come home, are there holes in the carpet or wet stains on the rug? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety.
Dogs are social beings and they love spending time with the people in their "packs." Some dogs, however, become nervous or panicky when left alone. They may drool, pant, bark excessively, soil in the house or engage in destructive behavior. They may also try to escape from their homes. These are all signs of separation anxiety.
Who gets it? Some dogs may develop separation anxiety more readily than others. "Dogs that exhibit separation anxiety often have a history that includes a 'separation event,' " says Kimberly Barry, Ph.D., a certified animal behaviorist from Austin, Texas. An example might be a dog that's adopted into a new home after being abandoned. However, not all home-alone dogs that go on barking sessions, soil carpets or trash their homes suffer from separation anxiety.
Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., a certified animal behaviorist from Littleton, Colorado, says the key to determining whether your dog suffers from separation anxiety is to see when the behavior occurs. "Separation anxiety behaviors occur within the first 30 minutes after the owner leaves," she says. "They also occur consistently when the dog is left alone," not just every now and then.
If your dog shows mild signs of separation anxiety nervousness when you depart, whimpering and crying at the door, and barking during the day, here's how you can ease his distress:
Dogs with severe separation anxiety need the help of a veterinarian or animal behaviorist. These professionals can prescribe medications that will help calm the animal. However, "medication is not meant to be a cure" for separation anxiety, notes Barry. Owners need to work with veterinarians and behaviorists to develop a program to change an anxious dog's behavior. Such treatment plans take time, but are well worth the effort, for both dog and owner.Return to Top