Ever wondered why your dog gets whiny, weepy, clingy, or even anxious when you leave for work? The reason behind this behavior could be separation anxiety, a common disorder in dogs that results in stress and insecurity when their owners leave them alone. And while some dogs show signs of separation anxiety more than others, it’s not clear what actually causes it. You may have noticed some signs of separation anxiety in your dog, and wondered what they were or where they came from. So what causes this problem in the first place?
Here are 10 potential causes of separation anxiety in dogs, and what you can do to help:
1. Lack of Early Socialization
Early socialization is essential for a pup’s personality development as dogs that are not properly socialized when they’re young are more likely to develop separation anxiety when they grow old. Early socialization helps in developing a dog’s confidence and learning skills such as how to use the toilet, how to walk on a leash, and when to use the litter box. A dog that has not been properly socialized may lack the confidence to remain calm when you are not in the house. They might even try to stress themselves out by pacing, mouthing the door, urinating indoors, and chewing on things.
2. Unfamiliar Places
Dogs that are not used to new surroundings may get anxious when they move to new places and ultimately become the victim of separation anxiety. This can be caused by new smells or sounds, entering a new apartment building, moving suddenly from one place to another, and even a change in the time of day you leave your house. Dogs that have been exposed to a variety of different situations at a young age are less likely to be affected by unfamiliar places when they get older.
3. Change of Owner
A dog’s behavior may change drastically when there is a change in the owner or their routine, which in turn may lead to separation anxiety. The dog may have grown accustomed to their previous owner or their previous routine, and an unexpected change will lead to an identity crisis. This may cause the dog to be confused, restless, and uneasy until they adapt to the new environment or owner which could lead to separation anxiety. It’s important to make sure that the new owner can give the dog time to adjust to their new environment as this is a big step in a dog’s life.
Studies have shown that dogs who are spayed/neutered before the onset of puberty are more prone to separation anxiety. Before your dog is spayed/neutered, you should allow them to socialize properly with other dogs. This way they do not feel the need to go out and find mates. Also, spay/neuter your dog before they are old enough to start establishing a territory of their own. Otherwise, there will be hormonal changes that occur after being spayed/neutered that may increase separation anxiety issues during adolescence.
5. Inadequate Training
Many dog owners forget that training is just as important as socialization for pet dogs. The lack of training may lead to a dog that is untrusting of people and is afraid of being left alone in the house. They may become anxious when you leave them alone, pant, pace, or lick the windowsill for someone to come back home. This can cause a dog’s condition to worsen, making the dog destructive to things in the house further aggravating their separation anxiety.
Also check out: 10 Practical Ways to Train a Dog with Separation Anxiety
6. Lack of Exercise
Dogs that don’t get a chance to exercise often are more likely to develop separation anxiety. A dog that has the opportunity to run, walk, play with their owner, or do something else besides laying in the yard all day will be less anxious when you leave the house. Regular exercise helps develop a healthy frame of mind, so your dog does not feel the need to overcompensate by chewing, licking, or tearing apart things in the house when you leave them alone.
Staying active on a regular basis also prevents boredom which would otherwise lead to destructive behavior. Exercising your dog on a regular basis will make them less anxious when you leave the house, less likely to chew on things, and more likely to use the bathroom outside.
7. Over Protection
Dogs that are overly protected by their owners and kept in a specific part of the house all the time have a high chance of developing separation anxiety. Some dog owners think that it is a sign of affection when they start to overprotect their dogs. They may do things such as not allowing their dogs to go into the kitchen, and generally treating them like babies. This can lead to more separation anxiety in dogs because their owners will not let them do the things they want. Over-protective owners often treat their pets like humans and deny them their basic instincts, which is good for neither the dog nor the owner.
8. Smaller Housing
Separation anxiety in your dog may arise in smaller-sized homes with fewer rooms, making it hard for them to get away from people or noise. I know smaller housing is ideal for small dogs, but there’s no denying that at times it’s important for dogs to be able to get away from people and noise, just as we do. It is therefore very important to make sure that your dog has the space to turn around and stretch their legs in. If your dog isn’t properly trained to do this, they may bark incessantly due to stress, which can lead to separation anxiety.
9. Change in Schedule
If you go on a vacation and make sudden changes to your dog’s schedule, they may become extremely anxious when you get home. When you move out of your schedule, your dog will feel confused about what time it is. If you suddenly come home earlier than your original schedule or vice versa, dogs will feel anxious until they get used to the new schedule. This is especially true if they were already anxious about their morning routine before you left on vacation. Your dog will feel less anxious when you get home if they are used to the same schedule every day, so try to structure your dog’s daily routine as much as possible.
10. Personality Traits
Some personality traits can contribute to separation anxiety in dogs regardless of the reason why the dog is experiencing it. If a dog has a tendency to be anxious and nervy, they can easily develop separation anxiety. Dogs that have been abused or neglected by their previous owners often show signs of separation anxiety when they are adopted by new owners because of the lack of positive reinforcement. This is especially true for puppies that have not been properly socialized or trained, such as those found in puppy mills. Sometimes separation anxiety in dogs can also be inherited, and it may worsen over time, especially if one or both of the dog’s parents showed signs of developing this condition.
Finding out why your dog is suffering from separation anxiety can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what to look for. Make sure to read the signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs and take your dog to a veterinary professional who can evaluate their condition and determine the best course of treatment. Remember that psychological stress plays a big role in causing separation anxiety, and if caught early on, this type of disorder can surely be prevented.
Thank you so much for reading the article.
To explore more, check out our other articles on separation anxiety in dogs.
Has your dog ever shown any sign of separation anxiety? If yes, what helped you get over the problem? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!