With humans returning to work, some dogs could be experiencing separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety in dogs was on the rise pre-pandemic and today is likely the most common behavior problem.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is essentially a panic attack. As dogs suffer, sometimes so do neighbors. It’s not a myth that many dogs are relinquished to shelters because of separation anxiety. And this is tragic because dogs can be treated. The human just needs some training as well.
Home cameras reveal secrets of what the dogs are doing, and the best tool to diagnose. Also, toss treats about as you leave the house and see if they are scarfed up before you return.
Here are signs of distress to watch for:
- Watchful waiting
- Destruction, chewing walls, furniture, scratching at doors, etc.
- Escape attempts
- Accidents (in dogs reliably house-trained)
- Excessive panting (unrelated to heat)
Some dogs exhibiting signs bulleted above may be bored, under-exercised, haven’t been taught how to be home alone or bark because it’s fun. A veterinary professional can view video, ask questions, and make a diagnosis.
Here’s what doesn’t work – doing nothing. Never think that the dog will figure it out, that everyone’s coming home.
Early intervention is best.
That training can include:
- Teaching dogs to comfortably relax in another room, achieving some independence. Of course, saying “hi” to dogs when you come home is natural, but some people are more dramatic and exuberant than their dogs.
- Eliminate departure cues. Some dogs know hours in advance when their people are headed out and are nervous wrecks well before their people leave. These cues can be eliminated by offering dogs an alternative behavior.
- Also, practice graduated departures, leaving home for moments at a time and calmly returning, and gradually building up to longer and longer periods away.