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Monitoring Your Pet With Separation Anxiety While You Are Away

Some dogs engage in destructive behaviors such as urinating, defecating, barking, howling, chewing, and digging when left alone. For these reasons, fur parents need to train their dogs to follow house rules when they’re away.     

Not all unwanted behaviors, however, are an indication that a dog isn’t house trained.

If you notice that your fur baby is exhibiting signs of distress, such as excessive drooling, trembling, and panting when you’re about to leave the house, these could be a sign of separation anxiety(1).

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The bond formed between you and your dog is consistent with an attachment(2). A study showed the emotional attachment between adult dogs and their owners is similar to that of human parents and their children(3).

Such findings aren’t surprising given that dogs are known for their dependence on people. Studies have shown that dog-human relationships date back 10,000 years(4). 

Although most dogs are emotionally attached to their human owners, anxious dogs exhibit more attachment behaviors than those that aren’t(5).

Separation anxiety has been defined as anguish in the absence of a particular person or thing(6).

You may notice how your dog frequently follows you around when you’re at home. As you prepare to leave the house, your dog may also begin to pace, whine, pant, or even freeze(7).

 According to a study, a dog’s separation-related behaviors become increasingly intense shortly after its owner’s departure becomes imminent. Anxious dogs also tend to exhibit excessive excitement when their fur parents return(8).

 About 20% of the dog population has been reported to have incidences of separation-related behavior problems. When left alone, anxious dogs can cause substantial damage at home and injure themselves in the process(9).

Factors That Predispose Dogs to Develop Separation Anxiety

Research suggests that dogs living with a single adult are more likely to have separation-related behavior problems than dogs that live with multiple owners(10).

There’s also some evidence that changes in the household, like a new resident, a change in routines that leads to the owner’s absence, or a single traumatic event, can trigger canine separation anxiety(11).

How to Prevent Canine Separation Anxiety

Studies suggest that adding another animal to the household may help anxious dogs cope with the absence of their human owners(12).

 Meanwhile, other fur parents confine their dogs to a crate(13). However, researchers have found that dogs left alone in cages or crates at home can increase lip licking, a response consistent with stress(14).

 Some owners who return to their homes may punish their dogs when they see the destruction they caused. However, know that a high frequency of punishment is commonly associated with anxious behaviors, particularly among small dogs(15).

 Therefore, avoid punishing your anxious dogs when dealing with their unwanted behavior. A large part of your dog’s training interactions must involve positive reinforcement(16).

Bark Collars for Dogs with Separation Anxiety:

Bark collars have gained popularity among dog owners as a tool to deter excessive barking. These devices automatically detect when your dog barks and emit a stimulus, such as a vibration, sound, or mild static shock, to interrupt the behavior. While they can be effective for curbing unwanted barking, their use for dogs with separation anxiety is debated. Separation anxiety barking is a symptom of the underlying distress a dog feels when left alone, so addressing the root cause is vital. Using a bark collar on a dog with separation anxiety may suppress the barking, but it doesn’t address the primary issue. Furthermore, the collar’s stimulus might increase the dog’s anxiety, making the problem worse. Owners are advised to approach this solution with caution and consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

E-Collar for Separation Anxiety:

Electronic collars, or e-collars, are devices that deliver electronic stimulations to a dog, typically used for training purposes. While they can be effective for teaching commands or correcting specific behaviors, their role in treating separation anxiety is controversial. Like bark collars, e-collars address the symptom (e.g., destructive behavior) rather than the underlying cause of separation anxiety. Using e-collars on anxious dogs can exacerbate their distress, as they might associate the discomfort from the collar with being alone, heightening their anxiety. Before resorting to such measures, it’s imperative to consult with a veterinary behaviorist or dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement techniques. Addressing the root cause of the anxiety will provide long-term benefits for both the dog and the owner.

Desensitization: An Essential Component of Canine Separation Anxiety

During desensitization to any form of fear, your dog mustn’t experience the full-blown version of the scenario that triggers its anxiety. It means that you shouldn’t leave your dog alone for long hours.

 Fortunately, there are alternative arrangements and helpful things you may try:

1.   Bring your dog to your workplace, if possible.

2.   Arrange for a dog sitter or a friend to come to your house and stay with your fur baby when you’re not there.

3.   Take your fur baby to doggy daycare.

4.   Use undiluted and unadulterated high-quality essential oils to help calm your dog’s nerves. Lavender, chamomile, and cedarwood are safe essential oils for dogs.

The Importance of Video Monitoring Your Anxious Dog

Leaving your house for work or other essential errands is inevitable. If you suspect that your dog has separation anxiety, it would be best if you set up a security camera to monitor what it does when you’re not around.  

A video can show your dog’s what anxiety symptoms your dog may have. It may also help you determine the reason why your fur baby is acting in a certain way, like barking or howling continuously.

You can also use a video to help you modify your dog’s behavior. You can share the video with your vet to help with the diagnosis. Your vet can use it to create an effective treatment plan and track your dog’s progress.

Xanax is a common prescription for treating anxiety-related disorders among dogs and puppies. However, some fur parents may prefer natural alternatives to help with their dog’s condition.

Tips for Recording a Video

●     Choose a video camera that can cover a wide angle so you’ll be able to see the entire area where your dog stays.

●     Select a video camera with a continuous recording option.

●     It is advisable not to change your dog’s location. Changing your fur baby’s environment can exacerbate its anxiety, making it difficult to determine treatment effects.

●     Avoid using two-way audio to talk to your dog, as your fur baby may become frantic when it hears your voice but can’t find where you are.

         Some dogs eventually become used to being left alone with the help of prescribed medication. However, most dogs need a combination of behavior modification techniques and medication.

Rescue Dog Separation Anxiety:

Rescue dogs often come with histories that are unknown to their adopters. They might have experienced trauma, abandonment, or frequent changes in environment before finding their forever home. This history can make them more susceptible to developing separation anxiety. Their earlier experiences can trigger a deep fear of being left alone, associating an owner’s departure with prolonged solitude or previous neglect. While not all rescue dogs develop this anxiety, those that do require patience, understanding, and consistent training to overcome it. Adopters are encouraged to recognize the signs early and consult with professionals to create a structured plan to help their new pet adjust and feel secure in their new environment.

GSP Separation Anxiety:

The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is a breed known for its energy, intelligence, and strong bond with its human companions. While they are excellent family dogs and sporting companions, they are also prone to developing separation anxiety if not provided with enough mental and physical stimulation. GSPs thrive on activity and human interaction, so prolonged periods alone can lead to symptoms like destructive behaviors, excessive barking, and restlessness. It’s crucial for GSP owners to understand their breed’s needs. Integrating regular exercise routines, mental stimulation games, and possibly crate training can help mitigate the symptoms. Additionally, gradual training to acclimate them to short and then longer periods of separation can ease their anxiety over time.

         To help your dog overcome its separation anxiety, speak with your veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist in your area. A certified animal behaviorist can work closely with your vet.



References

1.   Canine separation anxiety: strategies for treatment and management

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7521022/

 2.   A counterbalanced version of Ainsworth’s Strange Situation Procedure reveals secure-base effects in dog-human relationships

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159107001050?via%3Dihub

 3.    Attachment behavior in dogs (Canis familiaris): a new application of Ainsworth’s (1969) Strange Situation Test

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13516473_Attachment_Behavior_in_Dogs_Canis_familiaris_A_New_Application_of_Ainsworth’s_1969_Strange_Situation_Test

 4.   Attachment behavior in dogs (Canis familiaris): a new application of Ainsworth’s (1969) Strange Situation Test  

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13516473_Attachment_Behavior_in_Dogs_Canis_familiaris_A_New_Application_of_Ainsworth’s_1969_Strange_Situation_Test

 5.   Attachment behavior in dogs (Canis familiaris): a new application of Ainsworth’s (1969) Strange Situation Test  

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13516473_Attachment_Behavior_in_Dogs_Canis_familiaris_A_New_Application_of_Ainsworth’s_1969_Strange_Situation_Test

 6.   Effects of preadoption counseling on the prevention of separation anxiety in newly adopted shelter dogs

https://faunalytics.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Citation2397_Effects%20of%20Preadoption%20Counseling%20on%20the%20Prevention%20of%20Separation%20Anxiety%20in%20Newly%20Adopted%20Shelter%20Dogs.pdf

 7.   Canine separation anxiety: strategies for treatment and management

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7521022/

 8.   Canine separation anxiety: strategies for treatment and management

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7521022/

 9.    Canine separation anxiety: strategies for treatment and management

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7521022/

 10.Risk factors and behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11518171/

 11. Canine separation anxiety: strategies for treatment and management

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7521022/

 12. Separation anxiety syndrome in dogs and cat

https://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/abs/10.2460/javma.2003.222.1526

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