It’s not uncommon for dogs to experience some sort of separation anxiety in their lifetime. And it’s not uncommon for us as pet owners to become frustrated or upset by their behaviors. We have to remember it’s our job as pet parents to help our furbabies through their fears in order to correct their behaviors. Your pooch is having a hard time, too!
Separation anxiety can be hard to diagnose because the behaviors most often occur when your furbabies are left alone. So, how can you tell if your dog might have separation anxiety?
1. Your Furbaby Turns into “The Destroyer”:
You come home from a long day at work. You’re tired and hungry and pressed for time to take care of dinner, kids, homework, more work, etc. You open the front door and the first thing you see are bits of fluff floating through the air like delicate snowflakes. Pillows are ripped at the seams with stuffing and guts flowing out. Your pooch looks up, and his tail starts wagging while bits of the pillow’s insides are still glued to his muzzle, tongue and whiskers. Have you been there? I sure have!
Before we got our third pup, we tried to give our two Bostons full reign of the kitchen while gone during the day. We felt they were very well behaved. We thought we’d start with the kitchen as baby steps and hopefully allow them full freedom of the house some day. We took precautions, picking up our kitchen rugs and removing anything from the floor and lower shelf area that could potentially cause them harm. It wasn’t enough. Brody couldn’t handle it. We came home to a kitchen floor covered in stuffing. He destroyed both his bed and his sister’s bed. And yes, he still had the stuffing in his whiskers! We had given him too much space. We both realized he felt snug and secure in his crate. He loves his crate. By giving him more space, it confused him. His anxiety (which he does have) was heightened as well as his boredom level. From that day on, Brody became known as “The Destroyer”! We tried again and each time, Brody found something to destroy. Lesson learned.
2. Your Furbaby Morphs into a Shrieking, Howling Beast:
Have you ever left your home only to forget something and need to run back inside? And once you turned that key and opened your door, did you hear your furbabies shrieking and carrying on like wild animals in your absence?
Miss K is the screamer of the group. You would think we either had a rabid raccoon running around loose in our house, screaming his head off or we’d left a horror flick marathon on the television as our pet’s safety cue (more on safety cues later). She has a set of lungs on her that would make Beyonce jealous! Part of our problem was drawing out our good-byes. Instead of keeping our arrivals and departures quick and low key, we were having full on conversations with our dogs on our way out of the door and when coming home. We were making our comings and goings a big deal without really knowing it. Once we started making our good-byes quick and not making a big deal when coming in the door after work, the shrieking stopped. Now she just talks back to us and gives us attitude, but that’s normal for her!
3. Your Well-Trained Furbaby Leaves You Presents Around the House:
It’s possible your furbaby becomes so anxious when you leave that he or she improperly eliminates around your home. Your pooch’s anxiety can cause a loss of bladder and bowel control and is usually a result of extreme stress. This behavior can occur in even the best house-trained furbaby and is perhaps one of the most unpleasant and frustrating behaviors to deal with. It’s important to remember these actions are not done with spite or revenge but in extreme distress.
We went through a time period when Gabby was having elimination issues. After ruling out possible illness, we realized most of these issues were caused by us. We were causing her stress! To be fair, it was our first attempt at being pup parents, and we learned a lot despite the frustration. When it comes to this particular problem, what worked for us might not work for others. We started taking Gabby on long walks prior to leaving to ensure she went to the bathroom. We also trained her on “safety cues”. A safety cue is a word or action you use every time you leave to ensure your pup you will be back. For Gabby and the other two pups, we use music as a safety cue. It’s gotten to the point now when we put the music on, they immediately go into their crates and snuggle up in their blankets. (I’m sure they would say they go into their crates and burrow under so they don’t have to watch us leave…if they could talk of course!)
4. Your Furbaby Becomes Your Shadow:
When you’ve been away all day, does your furbaby cling to you as close as he or she possibly can? Does he or she consistently paw at you when you’re relaxing on the couch or follow you around the house when you first walk through the door? Do they do that infamous “butt scoot” where they scoot their rear end as close to you as possible and won’t move?
I’ll be honest – every single one of our dogs displays a shadow-type behavior in their own way when we come home! Brody follows me everywhere for the first ten minutes, to include the bathroom. If I close the door, he’ll lay outside and stick his paws underneath just like a child! Kizzy will want to immediately snuggle and will curl up in a ball on my lap (after she’s nipped at the toes). Makes it kinda hard to get that workout in some days! And Miss Gabby waits until the other two are done because she wants us all to her self. And honestly, I can’t blame them. I miss them terribly throughout the day, and my husband and I are more than likely encouraging this behavior. Maybe we have just as much separation anxiety as they do!
Do your babies display other signs of separation anxiety? Have you successfully helped your pooch conquer his or her fears? Are you the one with separation anxiety?! Tell us!