A dog expert has revealed the signs a dog is suffering from separation anxiety – and the 5 easy ways you can prevent it.
Canine behaviourist Adam Fehmi, from London, explained certain dogs can become ‘clingy and cry if you or their other carers leave them, even for a short time’.
He told FEMAIL five different ways to help a dog through separation anxiety – including playing classical music to create a ‘calm environment’ for the dog.
He revealed it can be an issue for ‘all breeds’, adding: ‘It is less about the breed of dog but some temperaments will be more likely to develop [separation anxiety]’.
‘With the right set up, routines, and training in place, this can be prevented or overcome’.
Meanwhile he also shared the common ways your dog is showing they’re suffering from separation anxiety – and the ways you can help to prevent it.
1. Exercise your dog before leaving them
He claimed that ‘effectively exercising your dog will help to reduce some of your dog’s energy, energy that they might otherwise put into worrying about being left.
‘A well exercised dog is also more likely to settle and rest in your absence than one who is raring to go!’
2. Give your dog something to do!
The expert revealed: ‘Just like us humans, dogs can and will get bored when left alone with nothing to do.
‘This boredom can promote and exacerbate any anxiety they might be prone to feeling when physically away from you’.
3. Create a calm environment for your dog to relax in
The expert advised the environment could have a major impact on how your dog reacts to being alone, specifically citing ‘playing classical or soft music’ as relaxation remedies for your canine.
‘Music can also help to drown out any external noises that might otherwise cause your dog to worry. A nice comfortable and inviting bed can also help your dog to relax in your absence’.
4. Build a dog’s confidence – while you’re at home
The expert explained: ‘[If we] build their independence, when they are away from us they are able to feel comfortable, relaxed and content in our absence rather than anxious.
‘An easy way to set and practice this initially is to use a light barrier such as a baby gate so your dog can still see you but is physically distanced from you’.
5. Be calm on your return to your dog!
Adam explained: ‘We want our dogs to learn that us coming and going throughout the day is normal and not a big deal or something to be feared.
‘By not making a big deal out of leaving them or returning to them we can help them to understand this’.
Common symptoms of separation anxiety in your pup
SEPARATION ANXIETY: WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
Veterinary specialist Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS explained: ‘Separation anxiety is the feeling of panic when an animal is separated from an important “resource” – usually a family member.
‘It was an evolutionary advantage to stick together in a pack or group, so the feeling of fear when alone was useful to the canine ancestor. The problem is, in modern-day living we need our dogs to be relaxed when left alone for short periods.’
This often isn’t the case, and signs of separation anxiety include howling and whining when left alone, or panicking when you go to leave the house.
Bad cases will see your dog pacing back and forth, and destructive behaviour such as chewing.
Dr Woodnutt revealed: ‘Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety may destroy furniture and even injure themselves.
‘It also often gets worse without proper behavioural intervention; a dog that starts out crying when left alone can progress to pure panic and attempts to escape over several months.’
So how can you tell whether or not your dog is suffering? Fehmi said more extreme signs can include ‘physical destruction, defecating or urinating, barking or howling, pacing, and shaking when left alone or separated from a particular family member or another pet in the home’.
He added that ‘in rarer cases, a dog may also cause physical harm to themselves’.
But sometimes separation anxiety can show itself in tamer forms – if your canine acts ‘as your “shadow” when you are at home, and not wanting to let you out of their sight’, you should be wary.
‘Your dog may also not want to rest in a room or space in the house that is away from you or other family members – needing to be physically close to you or other family members at all times, or your dog sitting by a door or window in your absence until your return’.
Meanwhile the canine behaviourist explained that there are a plethora of reasons behind separation anxiety, and that ‘the underlying causes can be complex’.
But he cited common factors as ‘the loss of a family member or another pet that they have lived with, or a change in routine.
‘For example, we’ve seen with the pandemic and people working from home more often how dogs have become accustomed to having more company than before.
‘Dogs can also develop separation anxiety as a result of a change in context, for example staying in a new environment such as a boarding establishment or family/friend’s house.
‘Another factor that can contribute to the development of this behavioural issue is a lack of effective exercise, which can lead to a dog having excess energy that then turns into “anxious energy”.’