Dog Separation Anxiety Part 2: What Are the Symptoms?

During the summer months, we’re featuring a special series by Angel Wasserman, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Paws in Training, about dog separation anxiety, including what causes this psychological disorder, what to look out for, and what you can do about it.

In our last blog post, Angel described dog separation anxiety and its possible causes. In this post, you’ll learn about the symptoms of this psychological disorder to help you determine if your dog might be suffering.

Symptoms of separation anxiety

Many dogs will become anxious when you leave the home and may follow you to the door, bark, whine or scratch at the door. While these are symptoms of being anxious and may eventually lead to separation anxiety, these behaviors alone do not mean that your dog has separation anxiety. Additionally, if you come home to destruction or house soiling, this does not mean that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety. Destruction in the home and house soiling are signs of separation anxiety, but they can also be signs of boredom, inappropriate house training or inappropriate chewing. If the root cause of the problem is not properly diagnosed and treated, neither the anxiety nor resultant behaviors will change.

The symptoms of true separation anxiety begin to present BEFORE you leave the home. The dog becomes anxious and demonstrates anxiety behaviors while you are preparing to leave. Your dog naturally knows the routine you follow to leave the home and he will begin to react as you begin your routine. For example, you begin to get dressed and your dog watches with eyes as wide as saucers, he’s stuck to you like velcro while you put on your shoes and will not leave your side. He may be pacing, panting, salivating, trembling, circling or jumping up on you repeatedly by the time you reach for your keys or pocketbook. And, when you get to the door to leave, the dog will likely be blocking your path, barking or crying, or attempting to race out the door with you. As you get into your car, you are virtually certain to hear your dog vocalizing.

Specific symptoms of separation anxiety include:

While you’re preparing to leave:

  • Vocalizing (barking, whining, howling, crying).
  • Refusal of water and food, even high value food such as steak or chicken.
  • Watching you (staring really) with eyes as big as saucers and following you.
  • Shaking or trembling.
  • Drooling/excessive salivation.
  • Panic behaviors that may include manic racing toward owners, body blocking of doors, vomiting, repetitive jumping on owners or using their mouths to grab and hold the clothing of their owners.

When you come home you find:

  • Destruction of property, which is primarily focused around exit doors and windows. Dogs may dig through floors and chew through doors, trim, walls and window trim. Sadly, some dogs will use their bodies to break the glass out of windows. These are all attempts to escape and reunite with their owner.
  • Bloody or broken teeth, abrasions on the nose, head or body, broken nails or legs and other bodily damage.
  • The dog has not eaten (even the delicious treats you left for him) and the water bowl clearly has not been touched.
  • Urination and/or defecation inside the house. The dog may have also vomited.
  • If the dog is crated, the crate bars may be bent or the crate may be moved to a different location or flipped on its side.
  • Excessive salivation resulting in a wet dog, wet crate or puddles on the floors.
  • Violent shaking or trembling.
  • A note from the neighbors telling you that your dog howled/cried or barked…the entire time you were gone. Or worse, a final notice for eviction from your landlord is pasted to your door.

Panic attacks

Some dogs experience panic attacks as a result of their anxiety. Panic attacks typically present themselves in physical damage to the dog’s body, their crate or extreme destruction of your property.  Behaviors resulting from panic are similar to panic attacks in humansthey are real, painful and emotionally crippling.

Learning more about this psychological disorder will help you better understand your dog and help him get better. The next blog post will be about the dos and don’t of treating dog separation anxiety. 

Angel Wasserman, CCBC, CPDT

Certified Behavior Consultant-Canine
Paws in Training, Inc.
(919) 896-2859 

This article was reposted from the Paws in Training website. Find Paws in Training on FacebookGoogle+, and Yelp. Check out Woof It Up! A Guide To Happy Dogs and Happy Owners, available in paperback or E-Book formats.

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