Many first-time dog owners never heard of separation anxiety in a dog, but it happens and way more often than you would think. I honestly never realized separation anxiety was an issue for dogs until we adopted our dog JJ in 2010. JJ would bark and drool excessively in his crate when we left even for 5 minutes. And if we left him out of his crate, he would mark somewhere in the house, even though he was potty trained. If I left the house, and my family was still at home, he would still be visibly stressed, waiting and staring at the front door until I came home.
This behavior slowly got worse and when I took him to the vet for his yearly checkup, the vet explained to me that he is showing signs of separation anxiety. She immediately suggested giving him Fluoxetine, which is basically Prozac for dogs. I trusted my vet and agreed to start him on the Fluoxetine. It seemed to help, but certainly didn’t “cure” him.
We were lucky in that I work from home, so the time he was left home alone was minimal. But I feel for the families that need to leave their dog home alone while they go to work for 8 hours, so I hope this article will help you prevent the separation anxiety ever happening. And if you have adopted a dog that already has separation anxiety, some of these tips will help.
Separation anxiety is a psychological disorder that manifests in excessive barking, whining or crying, chewing, digging, urination, defecation, and other destructive behavior that is accompanied by excessive panting and drooling when the dog is left alone.
Before you assume your dog has separation anxiety, consider ALL of your dog’s behaviors. Just because your dog misbehaves by chewing on the furniture, or urinating on the carpet when you leave him alone in the house, doesn’t mean he has separation anxiety. He most likely is just bored or not fully potty trained. After all, he is there all by himself with nothing to do.
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If your dog picks up on cues that you are getting ready to leave and starts to follow you everywhere you go, paces at the door when you’re putting your shoes on, barks the entire time you are away, chew on your belongings and you come home to a puddle of drool in his crate… your dog has separation anxiety. Now, he doesn’t have to have ALL of these symptoms, but he will likely have several of them.
If you come home to find your dog has chewed your shoes or furniture, but he’s relaxed when you walk in, he does NOT have separation anxiety, he is just bored!
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Check out these 6 steps you can take to keep your dog happy and healthy while being left alone at home.
First, follow everything that you read above.
My vet says I should give my dog medication to help calm him down, what should I do?
I certainly am not qualified to assess your dog’s medical needs. But please do your research, before deciding to medicate. Many vets won’t take the time to offer natural solutions, similar to doctors, prescribing a medication is often their first solution. So it is up to us as dog owners to do our own research on separation anxiety. Don’t use medication as an easy way out, that isn’t fair to your dog! If you’ve tried every natural remedy available, medication may be your last resort. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for this, you need to keep your dog healthy and happy, and medication may help.
Should I get another dog to keep my current dog company?
There isn’t a yes or no answer to this. Some dogs will do better if they have a friend to stay with. But there is also the possibility that the new dog will not help, or has or develops separation anxiety too… now you have two dogs with issues! If your dog is dog-friendly, maybe try dog sitting for a friends dog for a few days to see if it helps. Or consider fostering a dog, that way you aren’t committed long-term to a new dog.
P.S. I would love to hear how these tips helped you and your dog! Comment below to tell Rescue Dogs 101 community all about it.
Debi McKee is a dog mom, volunteer foster dog home, and lifetime dog lover. Debi’s mission is to guide you through every step of your dog journey, from adopting the perfect dog for you and your family, to training your dog and keeping your dog happy and healthy. Sign up for our free resource library of must-have resources, containing valuable downloads to help you in your dog journey.
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