Features October 2016 Issue

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Symptoms and How to Modify the Behavior

Dogs with milder isolation distress might “only” chew furnishings or other household items or urinate in the house when left alone. Dogs with severe separation anxiety might scratch or chew through doors or window frames in an effort to escape. These dogs are genuinely panicking, not “acting out.”

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Symptoms and How to Modify the Behavior

Dogs who can't be left alone or whose destructive or disruptive behavior is caused by separation anxiety and isolation distress are not “misbehaving” – they need help.

Separation anxiety is a condition in which the dog becomes upset when separated from one or more humans with whom he has hyper-bonded. A dog with true separation anxiety experiences a severe panic attack when he is left alone. Escape attempts by a dog with separation anxiety can be extreme and may result in self-injury. Household destruction often occurs, especially around exit points like windows and doors. Some dogs have even jumped through windows in their desperate attempts to find their humans. Separation-related behaviors vary in intensity from one dog to the next. Milder forms of the behavior are more appropriately called “separation distress,” while the full-blown panic attack truly deserves the label “separation anxiety.

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