Does your pup seem overly worried when you leave? Have they broken or escaped from flimsy dog crates? Do they participate in destructive behaviors only when left alone? Do they go bananas when you return? If so, your dog may be dealing with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety affects an estimated 14 percent of dogs and, sadly, is one of the top reasons dog owners give their pups up. Before you lose all hope, however, it is essential to learn the signs of separation anxiety and know there are tried and true ways to ease your dog’s anxiety. With time, you and your dog can both experience anxiety-free departures in the future.
Telltale Signs of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
The following is a list of common symptoms that may mean your dog has separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety likely will cease this behavior when you are around but consistently and regularly behave like this as you prepare to leave and when you are gone. These behaviors occur whether left in a room, wire dog crate, or in the house.
Excessive Barking, Howling, and Whining
Dogs with separation anxiety may excessively whine, bark, or howl as you prepare to leave, when left alone, and when he sees you again. This kind of barking is persistent and only triggered when left alone.
Urinating and Defecating
Some housebroken dogs will urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their owners. Anxious dogs will work themselves up to a state where they poop or pee in the house, which makes for a messy clean-up and potential damage to the home.
If a dog soils the house in the presence of his owner, his incontinence is most likely unrelated to separation anxiety. Instead, it may be caused by medical problems or medications. Visit your veterinarian to rule out medical issues if this is the case.
Some dogs with separation anxiety chew, dig or destroy objects around the house when left alone. Often, destruction occurs around exit points such as:
- Chewing on door frames or window sills
- Scratching or digging at doors, doorways, or windows
- Damaging window treatments, rugs, gates, or their dog crate
This destructive behavior can result in self-injury. If this behavior is caused by separation anxiety, it does not occur in the owner’s presence.
Escaping or Attempts to Escape
A dog with separation anxiety will often try to escape from where he is confined. Flimsy plastic or wire crates, rather than a high anxiety dog crate, can make this issue worse. Not only will these escape attempts damage your home or dog crate, but they could potentially injure your dog, too.
Excessive Drooling, Panting, or Salivating
Some dogs with separation anxiety will drool, pant, or salivate way more than is usual. When linked to separation anxiety, this drooling only occurs when they are left alone.
When left alone or separated from their guardians, some dogs walk or trot in a specific or fixed pattern, such as a circular pattern or back and forth in a straight line. If linked to separation anxiety, pacing generally will not occur when you are present.
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Have Separation Anxiety
Some dog breeds are more prone to separation or crate anxiety than others. Social breeds who crave attention and human company top the list. Breeds who are intelligent and high-energy also struggle with separation anxiety more than others. They include:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Border Collies
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Jack Russell Terriers
- German Shepherds
- Australian Shepherds
- Bichon Frise
- German Shorthaired Pointers
- Toy Poodles
- Cocker Spaniels
- Italian Greyhounds
Six Ways to Ease Your Dog’s Worries
If you think your dog suffers from separation anxiety, there are some at-home habits that you can try to help your pup become healthier and calmer. Many of these guidelines are part of comprehensive treatments known as counterconditioning and desensitization.
Counterconditioning is a treatment process to change an animal’s fearful, anxious, or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. You train your dog by associating the feared action, such as you leaving, with something they love. Over time, your dog learns that what they fear actually brings good things for them, and they become calmer and happier. Desensitization is when the owner slowly introduces their dog to the source of anxiety, such as departure, in small increments over time.
Tip 1: Rule Out Other Problems
Before you begin training, make sure that other factors do not cause your dog’s behavior. Medical problems such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), hormone imbalance, old age, bladder stones, diabetes, and kidney disease can often cause incontinence in dogs. Incomplete housebreaking or training can also cause your dog to misbehave when you are present or away. Finally, if your dog is bored and not getting enough physical and mental stimulation, it might act out with destructive behavior. Assess the situation and consult your vet if necessary to rule out any other causes for poor behavior.
Tip 2: Build Predictable Routines
Establish a daily routine so your dog’s day can be calmer and more predictable when you are home or away. In this routine, meet all of your dog’s needs for attention, including feeding, exercise, training, and play. Build nap time and object play into your routine when you are usually gone. Make sure your dog gets plenty of physical activities and mental stimulation, which will keep them busy, happy, and too tired to be anxious when you are gone.
Tip 3: Reinforce Good Behavior
You do not want to respond to and thus reward your dog’s inappropriate behavior. When you return home, ensure your dog is settled down or lying in his crate or bed before giving attention or rewards. Ignore all attention-seeking behavior. During the first few weeks of training, avoid all casual interactions so that both you and your dog know that a “settled” response achieves rewards, while attention-seeking does not. Reward your pup for more extended stays and longer times on their mat or crate before attention and other rewards are earned.
Tip 4: Make Departures and Arrivals Low-Key
You can use desensitization to train your dog not to become anxious as you prepare to leave by carrying out routine departure cues numerous times a day without leaving. For example, you can put your shoes on or grab your keys and affects multiple times a day and not actually leave. Continue to do so for at least a few weeks, and, in this way, your dog becomes accustomed to your departure habits without the stress of you leaving.
Make it low-key when it comes time to leave or arrive back home. Do not engage in long, obvious goodbyes and instead slowly and quietly disappear for longer and longer periods of time. When you come home, do not make it a big deal and wait until your pup has calmed down before you bring him out of his dog crate.
Tip 5: Use Comfort Items
Instead of having your dog associate your leaving with stress and anxiety, you want to associate leaving with positive things, such as a treat, a toy, a safe place like an aluminum dog crate, or clothes or items that smell like you. Only let your dog have these items when you are gone, and remove them when you are home.
Tip 6: Invest in a High Anxiety Dog Crate
Provide your dog with a secure area to settle when you are not home, such as a bed or mat in a room or aluminum dog crate. A strong metal dog crate can provide your pup with a safe place to rest, nap, play with his toys, and sleep while you are away. A high anxiety dog crate ensures your dog remains in his area long enough during training and when you are away, keeping both him and your home safer. Most often, when a dog learns they cannot get out they settle down, discontinue escape attempts, and learn to relax while in their dog crate.
Start With the Right Gear for Your Anxious Dog
We at Rock Creek Crates want the best for your best friend. Our top-rated aluminum dog crates provide a safe place for your pup. Our crates safely hold your anxious dog and prevent escape artists from breaking free. We build our crates with aircraft-grade aluminum, a welded frame, and stainless steel locking latches with the option of adding secondary door bolts for extra peace of mind.
Shop Rock Creek Crate products today. With three different sizes and a variety of colors to choose from, you can find the right crate for you and your dog. Each crate is proudly made in the USA and arrives fully assembled with a 10-year warranty. It will be the last crate you ever buy for your dog.