Separation anxiety is a state of distress experienced by a dog due to its owner’s absence. Dogs with separation anxiety often display excessive barking, whining, or howling to express their discomfort and anxiety. This is triggered by a fear of being left alone, the unfamiliarity of solitude, or a lack of socialization or training.
Let’s find out how to identify if a dog barks due to separation anxiety!
How to Know if My Dog is Barking or Suffering from Separation Anxiety?
Excessive Barking When Alone
If your dog barks excessively whenever you’re not home, it could be a sign of separation anxiety. For instance, your neighbors might inform you about your dog’s continuous barking during your absence, or you might hear your dog start to bark immediately after you leave the house. For example, a Border Collie, known for being extremely attached to their owners, might start barking incessantly and showing signs of distress when you’re out of sight.
Dogs with separation anxiety often exhibit destructive behavior. They might chew on furniture, destroy household items, or attempt to escape from confined areas. This is their way of coping with the stress of being left alone. For instance, a Labrador Retriever, a breed renowned for high energy levels, might turn to destructive chewing of shoes or cushions when left alone, showing signs of separation anxiety.
Urination and Defecation
Even a well-trained dog might urinate or defecate inside the house if suffering from separation anxiety. This usually happens in the owner’s absence, even if the dog had been taken out before the owner left. For example, an adult Poodle, despite being housetrained, might start having “accidents” indoors when left alone, signaling separation anxiety.
Changes in Appetite
Your dog might stop eating or change its eating habits when left alone if it has separation anxiety. For instance, you might notice that your German Shepherd, usually enthusiastic about meals, leaves their food untouched until you return home.
Pacing and Restlessness
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety often pace obsessively. They may walk along a specific path in a fixed pattern when the owner isn’t present. A Golden Retriever, for example, might repeatedly pace in a line or circle the room, indicating stress and anxiety due to separation.
Howling and Whining
Howling and whining when left alone can be signs of separation anxiety in dogs. This vocalization differs from barking as it often carries a prolonged, mournful quality. It’s their way of expressing distress and seeking attention when alone. For instance, a Husky, known for their vocal nature, might start howling or whining immediately after their owner leaves the house, showing signs of anxiety from the separation.
Coprophagia, the act of consuming feces, can also be a disturbing sign of separation anxiety in dogs. Under stress, dogs may defecate and consume their feces, usually in the owner’s absence. This behavior might stem from anxiety, boredom, or other health issues. For example, if dealing with separation anxiety, a Boxer dog might engage in coprophagia when left alone. However, it’s important to seek veterinary advice if your dog exhibits this behavior, as it could also indicate nutritional deficiencies or other health issues.
Are there any other reasons that my Dog engages in such Behaviors?
Your dog’s behavior might not be solely due to separation anxiety. Other possible reasons could include insufficient exercise, inadequate training, boredom, or other medical issues like urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal problems, or cognitive dysfunction.
Certain breeds are more prone to anxiety and certain behaviors than others. It’s important to consult a vet or a professional dog behaviorist if your dog consistently exhibits problematic behavior.
Why do Dogs develop Separation Anxiety?
Change in Ownership or Environment
Dogs may develop separation anxiety after a sudden change in their living situation. This could involve being rehomed, adopted from a shelter, or changing their family structure or living environment.
Change in Schedule
An abrupt change in the owner’s schedule that results in the dog being left alone more often than they’re used to can trigger separation anxiety.
Loss of a Family Member
Whether it’s the loss of a human companion or another pet, this traumatic event can lead to separation anxiety in dogs, as they might feel lonely or insecure.
Aging and Health Issues
As dogs age, they can develop separation anxiety, particularly if they also deal with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Similarly, health issues that cause discomfort or pain can also lead to increased anxiety.
Do I need to Visit a Vet if my Dog is Barking due to Separation Anxiety?
If your dog consistently shows signs of separation anxiety, such as barking excessively when left alone, it’s recommended to consult a veterinarian. They can rule out any potential medical issues contributing to the behavior. They may refer you to a professional dog behaviorist or suggest treatment options, which could include behavior modification techniques, training adjustments, or in some cases, medication.
What to do if my Dog has Separation Anxiety?
Provide Plenty of Exercises: Ensure your dog gets plenty of physical and mental exercise each day. A tired dog is often content and less likely to exhibit anxious behaviors.
Use Training Techniques: Implement gradual desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques. These can help reduce anxiety by getting the dog used to being alone in small, manageable steps.
Create a Safe Space: Create a safe, comfortable space for your dog to relax when you’re not home. This could be a specific room or a crate if they are comfortable with it.
Limit Pre-Departure Cues: Try to avoid cues that signal your departure, such as picking up keys or putting on a coat, as these can increase anxiety.
Use Distraction Tools: Provide toys, puzzles, or treat-dispensing toys to distract and entertain your dog when you’re not around.
Consider Doggy Daycare or Pet Sitters: If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe, consider a doggy daycare or a pet sitter so your dog is not left alone.
Consult a Professional: If your dog’s separation anxiety is severe and these strategies are not working, it may be time to consult a professional. A veterinarian or a certified animal behaviorist can provide additional support and solutions.
Medication: In some severe cases, and under the guidance of a veterinarian, medication may be an option to help manage your dog’s separation anxiety.
What to do if my Neighbor’s dog barks due to Separation Anxiety?
If your neighbor’s dog is barking due to separation anxiety, it may be best to approach your neighbor politely and non-confrontational. Share your concerns and suggest they consult a professional or veterinarian for assistance in managing the dog’s anxiety.
Is my Dog Barking at Night due to Separation Anxiety?
Nighttime barking could be due to separation anxiety if your dog is accustomed to sleeping near you and is suddenly left alone. However, there could also be other causes, such as the need for a bathroom break, disturbances from outside noises, or medical issues. Consulting with a vet can help determine the root cause.