It is a well known fact that most dog owners are extremely attached to their dogs. These people do not consider their canines as animals. They are rather, a part of the family. Some dog owners even go the extent of referring to themselves as the ‘parent’ of their pet and not as its master. This feature of humans being overly attached to their dogs is not exactly viewed as negativity. But what if it is the dog that is overly attached to its human, so much so that it absolutely cannot bear to be kept away from him or her? If your dog shows such desperate dependence on you, then you must know that it is suffering from a problem called Separation Anxiety.
What is Separation Anxiety?
It is in our human nature to miss a loved one who is away from us. Dogs, too, think of their masters when they are away. Most dogs carry on with their life, continuing to await their master’s return. However, some dogs need to be around their owners at all times and if they are separated for even just half an hour, they begin to panic a lot.
In the modern times when the members of almost every household are busy with commitments like school or office, which require them to get out of the confines of their house, having a dog which suffers from separation anxiety proves to be a great difficulty. They can try to spend a large portion of their day with the dog but it is still impossible for them to remain with it for the whole day, day after day.
Most dogs adjust to the schedule of their master and do not mind waiting at home while they are out during the day. These dogs either sleep or play with their toys or just busy themselves in doing something or the other that is harmless. But those dogs with separation anxiety cannot tolerate being left alone and this loneliness drives them to become destructive. They continuously whine or howl, refuse to eat or drink, vomit, salivate excessively, relieve themselves inside the house, make a mess inside the house, destroy furniture etc. The exhibition of such behavior does not mean that the dog is dangerous and untamed. What happens is that when the dog is left alone, it starts to think that it has been abandoned and worries about the master never returning home. This anxiety causes it to remove its stress by doing such things and trying to escape.
How is Separation Anxiety caused?
In majority of the cases, separation anxiety in dogs is the result of their painful past. Therefore it is usually found in dogs which have had an abusive upbringing or the ones which have had multiple owners in the past. The reason behind this is that dogs are very loving animals and they form strong bonds with their owners but when these bonds are broken or abused due to different reasons, it causes them great sadness and pain. So they suffer from depression. Yet, not all dogs coming from such backgrounds experience this problem.
A few other situations which cause this are the death of a loved one, the change in the schedule of the master or the parting of the master from the dog for a long period of time for a vacation etc. Sometimes it is also caused due to an overly indulgent owner who is used to pampering the dog and spending a lot of time with it. This isn’t a bad thing. However, it might have an adverse effect on the dog which gets used to such treatment and cannot bear being away from that owner for even a short period of time, if the need arises.
What are its symptoms?
The main problem of a dog which is suffering from separation anxiety is the distance from its owner. It tries its best to be with the owner and so it attempts to escape from the area of confinement. It tries to destroy the things that come in its way and the doors, window and other escape routes are targeted. This is called ‘barrier frustration’.
Other symptoms include behavior like chewing, digging, scratching, house soiling, whining, howling, excessive grooming, diarrhea, vomiting and salivation. All of these symptoms are seen only in the absence of the owner. In addition to these, we can see that the dog is extremely overjoyed upon the return of its master and thus jumps around him or her, a lot. It then continues to follow its master everywhere and refuses to leave his or her side.
How can it be treated?
The first step in treating a sickness or a disease is to identify it. Hence, one must find out clearly if the dog is truly suffering from separation anxiety or if it is just bored, as a bored dog would exhibit similar behavior. Next, a vet must be consulted to find out if the symptoms are a result of an underlying medical condition. The other basic things that can be done are to get another pet as a companion for your dog when you are not as home, so that it is not alone. You must also reduce your extreme displays of affection towards it and not make a big show each time you leave the house. This way, it will get used to your going out and will know that it isn’t being abandoned.
Separation anxiety must not be treated lightly as it can prove to be injurious to dogs. There are many possibilities of them hurting themselves while trying to escape. Thus it is of utmost importance that this disorder should be recognized and treated at the earliest.