Separation Anxiety…dog ​​can’t stay home alone

Separation anxiety, a problem that can have major consequences for your living situation. Your dog may be barking and whining all the time when you are not home, thus causing a nuisance.

Some dogs pee and defecate indoors, which is of course not very nice. Demolition is also a common problem in dogs that find being alone very difficult.

Who suffers the most from this is of course your dog, who experiences enormous stress. But for the boss, this can also be really debilitating. You just don’t leave the house with peace of mind if you know that your dog is panicking at home…

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is popularly referred to as ‘not being able to be alone. But it could also be that your dog has problems with being alone when it is not fear. And some dogs have separation anxiety when they are not alone but in the company of other dogs. These dogs are then frightened when there are no people with them.

You also have dogs that panic when one family member leaves while the others are still at home. If this is always about the same person, then we speak of excessive bonding.

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How do you recognize separation anxiety in your dog?

Characteristics of separation anxiety are:

  • Barking/crying/squeaking
  • Walking back and forth / circling/restlessness
  • Don’t drink or eat when you’re gone
  • filth
  • Scratching (doors/walls/self/furniture)
  • Demolish, destroy things
  • Drooling, panting
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How does your dog get separation anxiety?

There are large individual differences in dogs. Where one dog has a great time without other dogs or people around, that is a big problem for another dog.

Dogs that are very independent and were originally bred to work alone without humans or other dogs are often less likely to suffer from separation anxiety than, for example, shepherds, pack dogs, or companion dogs.

With a mountain dog, rottweiler or schnauzer you will therefore be less likely to have a problem with being alone than with a husky, shepherd or beagle. In huskies and beagles, the problem is less common if there are multiple dogs in the family.

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My dog ​​can’t live without me

Excessive bonding with a person and not being able to be alone, are 2 different behavioral problems. Of course, it is very nice if you have a strong bond with your dog. A dog that feels anxious, helpless, lost, and tense without you… no, of course, you don’t want that.

Do you have this problem? Then you will have to undergo training that will give your dog more self-confidence. You, as the owner, will need the advice to ensure that you create a little more distance between you and your dog in a friendly way.

Training in which your dog has to work independently is highly recommended! Think of tracking, free shaping, search, and body awareness.

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What to do if your dog barks when he is home alone?

The very first step should be figuring out why your dog is barking. Is it fear, or something else? To find out, you need to know how your dog behaves when you are away, what he does when he barks and how.

Fortunately, nowadays there are easy cameras that you can install that allow you to really watch your dog ‘live’. You can of course also record. As long as you get a picture of your dog’s behavior when alone.

Your dog may bark if he sees other dogs or people outside. This is of course not fear of separation, usually, a solution that deprives you of the view to the outside is sufficient.

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Your dog howls when alone

Vocalizing (howling, barking, crying) can therefore also be something other than fear. Anxious dogs often have a high-pitched bark or they squeak, whine, or howl.

If you find out that there is fear, then you have to work in small steps. The point is that you simply CANNOT leave your dog alone in the first phase of the training. So you will have to arrange a babysitter or daycare, or work from home temporarily.

How long does it take before your dog can be at home peacefully? That differs per dog. You have to keep in mind that it is your dog who is really having a hard time here. He whines and cries because he is anxious and stressed, not to “bully” you.

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Separation anxiety at night

Some dogs find being alone at night very difficult. We see this especially in puppies, older dogs and after a move.

Often the environment of the dog is different at night than during the day. There are other sounds, your dog is usually in a different room than you. Often the first solution is a sleeping place for your dog near you. From there you can start building again to the desired location.

I think it’s really important with puppies that they can sleep close to their owner for the first few nights in their new home.

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Separation Anxiety After Surgery

A striking phenomenon is separation anxiety after surgery. What strikes me is that it mainly occurs in dogs that either went into anesthesia without their owner being there or came out of the anesthesia without their owner around. Or both.

This also applies: you have to build it all over again from scratch. Was your dog able to be alone for 8 hours before surgery without any problems? Fine, but that’s not your starting point now. Often learning alone again goes wrong, because we think ‘my dog ​​could already do that. You then go too fast and don’t look very closely at what your dog can handle NOW.

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My older dog can’t be alone anymore

When your dog gets older, he can become demented. This is often accompanied by uncertainty and fear. Yes, also separation anxiety.

Your dog may have never had a problem with you going to work in the first 10 years of its life. Your senior dog may now turn to you for support more often. But what if you’re not there? Then his anxiety may increase.

You also see uncleanliness relatively often in older dogs, because they are less able to hold their pee anyway. Treating separation anxiety in older dogs often takes a little more time than in young dogs.

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How do you teach your dog to be alone?

If your dog doesn’t have a problem with being alone yet (just to make sure, use the camera!), being alone is still something you need to pay a little attention to.

This problem can always arise. Often you won’t know your dog has separation anxiety until your neighbors tell you it howls when you’re not around. But it could be that the problem has been there for a while.

Maybe your dog kept drinking a lot when you got home. Or he didn’t eat the bone you gave him when you left until you got home.

That’s why the camera is so important! You can intervene with this before being alone becomes a very big problem.

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Teaching a puppy to be home alone

With a puppy, it makes a difference if the breeder has taught the puppies to be alone. So, have the puppies been alone in a room without littermates and mother? So if your puppy doesn’t have that experience yet, then he needs to learn to be without a mother and other puppies, as well as without you.

Pretty hard! A common problem with puppy owners is that we forget to practice being alone. You often take time off to properly house-train your puppy, but because you are at home then, you forget to leave your puppy alone.

A training schedule to teach being alone

Training your dog to be able to stay alone is of course slightly different for every dog. For any dog, if there is already a problem with being alone, then you need to be extra careful.

So if your dog has really serious separation anxiety, you can’t leave him alone for longer during the training period than he can handle without effort. You start by simply walking out the door and coming back. So you might be gone for 1 second.

The often-heard advice ‘start with a few minutes and then stay away for 5 minutes longer each time’ is far too quick for many dogs. Especially if you only practice 3 times a week. It is best to practice in very small steps, using different tools. So seconds, in and around the house.

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Medication for separation anxiety in your dog?

You can support your dog with medication. No, not by giving him muscle relaxants so he can’t bark or move. That would only increase his fear.

You can try over-the-counter remedies such as Adaptil, homeopathic remedies, and naturopathic supplements. Keep in mind that all resources are intended to support targeted training. Only ‘giving a pill’ is therefore never a solution for changing behavior.

Sometimes it is necessary to use heavier medication. Always consult very carefully with a veterinarian and behavioral therapist before using this medication. Ask about any side effects and when you should see improvement. And don’t forget, training is the main thing here too. Medicines are for support.

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Separation Anxiety Aids

In addition to medicines, you can also use other resources. Commonly used home, garden and kitchen resources when you can’t be home alone:

Leave the TV/radio on (with some dogs a video with their owners in the lead)
Place a worn piece of clothing of yours on the couch, in their basket or bench.
A snuggle puppy (a soft doll that gives off heat and has a heartbeat, this works especially well with puppies and small dogs)
Bones, snacks, a stuffed KONG, a Klickitat to encourage eating and chewing while alone

A Thundershirt or Body Wrap

More/less freedom of movement (the whole house at their disposal, or just the kitchen, or in the crate)
A camera with voice function (so you can reassure your dog)

Also with these aids: if you only use the aids without training, you have less chance that the problem will go away or not come back after a while. So training is the most important part of being home alone!

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