Does your companion animal hate it when you leave? They seem to worry when you’re about to head out, they act like they haven’t seen you in years when you return, and you always come home to destroyed household objects. Chewed up flip-flops, knocked over figurines, scratched up doors… Oh, look, there are puddles of urine on the floor, too!
As frustrating as the situation may be, know that they didn’t do this to spite you. They were only upset because they missed their favorite human.
If your dog or cat becomes destructive when left alone or starts to get anxious whenever you prepare to leave, you may have a case of separation anxiety on your hands. They experience distress when you, their beloved guardian, are away, and this often translates to inappropriate behavior.
Why is my Dog so Clingy?
Un-fur-tunately, separation anxiety is pretty common among our canine friends. We have yet to figure out why exactly some pooches develop this problem and others do not, but doggos who have been abandoned or surrendered to a shelter tend to have it more than those who have stayed in a single family since puppyhood, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Other scenarios that are associated with canine separation anxiety include a change in routine or the sudden absence of a family member, reported The Humane Society of the United States.
Does my Dog have Separation Anxiety?
• Pups with separation anxiety display behavior issues when they’re left alone. Some of the most common symptoms are:
• Urination and defecation, even when they’re otherwise house-trained
• Persistent barking, howling, and whining
• Destructive chewing (Yes, dogs love to chew stuff. However, if your pup does it only when you’re not around, then it’s likely a sign of separation anxiety.)
• Digging and scratching at doors or windows in an attempt to escape and reunite with their humans
• Coprophagia (Some dogs with separation anxiety will eat their own poop.)
But First. Rule Out other Issues
Some symptoms, such as urination and destructive chewing, can be caused by medical conditions and other behavior problems, respectively, making it difficult to determine if your best friend actually has separation anxiety. To rule out any medical issues, please consult your doggo’s vet.
What Not to Do
Whatever you do, never punish or scold your dog, who’s only trying to cope with a stressful situation. Punishment can make the problem worse.
Calm Down, Boy!
So, what can you do to keep your pup from freaking out when you leave them at home? For mild cases of separation anxiety:
• Don’t make a big deal out of greetings. Say hello when you arrive and wait until your dog has calmed down before giving them any more attention. When leaving, just give them a pat on the head and say goodbye.
• Leave your dog with dirty laundry that smells like you. Having your scent around may comfort them.
• Daily exercise helps reduce stress. Exercising your pup for at least 30 minutes before you leave may help them relax. Aerobic activities such as running and swimming are great.
• Teach your dog to enjoy being alone by helping them associate it with good things. Every time you leave, give them a puzzle toy such as a KONG that has been stuffed with food like peanut butter, frozen banana, or their regular meal.
• For moderate to severe cases of separation anxiety, a desensitization and counterconditioning program is required. This is a complex and potentially lengthy process, so it’s highly recommended to seek the help of an experienced professional.
Call in the Behavior Experts
Here are a few dog training schools in the metro that can help turn your K9 into a K10:
626 Lee Street, Mandaluyong City
Filinvest 2, Quezon City
YMC Building, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s October 2018 issue.