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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The term ‘separation anxiety’ has been widely and so lightly used by most people that its value and importance is unfortunately often forgotten. Separation anxiety, both in people and in dogs, should be taken seriously and properly dealt with, because it greatly affects mental and physical health.

Causes. Separation anxiety in dogs can be triggered when a dog is left alone for the first time or when it is suddenly left alone after being so used to constant human companionship. It can also result from an abrupt change in routine or from traumatic or unusually new events such as being caged in a small shelter or the death of another pet in the household. Some dog breeds can also be genetically disposed. There is no single cause to separation anxiety and until now, it is still not fully understood why some dogs undergo separation anxiety while others do not.

Symptoms. Dogs experiencing separation anxiety may exhibit destructive or disruptive behaviors. They become extremely agitated, destructively chew on pillows or furnitures, scratch doors and windows, mutilate plants, excessively bark, whine or howl, and defecate or urinate indoors even when they were already trained to do it outdoors. These inappropriate behaviors seem like the dog needs an obedience training, but if these behaviors only show when the you are about to head out, then these behaviors indicate that the dog indeed feels anxious and distressed. Another symptom of separation anxiety in dogs is the dog attempts to escape, and this can unfortunately result to household destruction and self-injury. It is important to also know what sets aside separation anxiety symptoms from just plain inappropriate and unwanted behaviors among dogs. Separation anxiety symptoms occur even preparing to or before you head out, every time you leave, only in your absence.

Treatment. The good news is, separation anxiety is not a hopeless case for it is treatable. With much effort, patience, and understanding, you can help your dog overcome separation anxiety. The most commonly used treatment is desensitization, the process of diminishing emotional responsiveness to aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. Desensitization takes ample time, usually around six to eight weeks, to make symptoms manageable, thus, it is still recommended that help is seeked from a dog trainer or a behaviorist. In extreme cases of separation anxiety in dogs, veterinarians may prescribe drugs. It is also important to keep in mind that punishing and crating your dog when exhibiting separation anxiety symptoms does not help in alleviating and overcoming the anxiety and distress it is going through.

It helps to know about separation anxiety, for it exists not just in people but also in dogs. It pays to know the causes and the symptoms, in order to know how to properly and correctly deal with separation anxiety in dogs.

Separation anxiety is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. Its symptoms can be disruptive and destructive to the household and may even harm the mental and physical health of dogs. Fortunately, with patience and effort, you can help your dog overcome separation anxiety.

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