Living With a Dog With Separation Anxiety

I have a confession: I love my doggy. He farts murderously, greets me with his butt, is a finicky eater, and chooses the most awkward positions in which to sleep. Kuro-Inu Marilao-Hicks is a perfect pit bull. In fact, you’d think the term, ‘pibble’ was inspired by him. This guy is funny, too. As I was sitting on the couch with a friend, he tried to sneak up between us - all 55 pounds of him - and curl up right by me. He tried. Not only did my friend and I see him, but we laughed about it as we watched him climb up, and settle himself. I love this dog, and the humor he brings to my life, and his separation anxiety manifests in so many interesting ways.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Many pets have some degree of separation anxiety. Maybe you’ve heard a few minutes of crying or whining when you’ve locked the door. Separation anxiety refers to a being’s inability to be alone, or away from its family. People can have separation anxiety, as can any mammal. Baby elephants can become unbalanced, and fall as a result of separation anxiety when away from their parents. Children may cry, long and loudly, when first separated from their parents.

How do I know that my dog has Separation Anxiety?

Most people will find out in an instant whether or not their dog has been affected by separation anxiety. I personally found out when I came home to find that my dog had chewed a hole in my couch, and given the same treatment to my door frame, and the door to the radiator. Your dog may cry when you leave, and continue crying for a little while. Sometimes, this anxiety can manifest in destructive behavior, as is the case with my pit bull, and his chewing.

Why does ANY dog get Separation Anxiety?

Nobody actually knows! Odd though it may seem, there doesn’t seem to be a single, universal cause of separation anxiety. A dog can be completely fine until a family goes on vacation, leaving him at a boarding facility. A dog could have been abandoned. A human could have passed away, leaving their beloved pet behind. There are so many things that could scar a dog, and change them that there is no way to say, for sure, that any one thing could cause separation anxiety. Considering that my dog, when I found him at the animal shelter, was clean, trained, and extremely friendly, I suspect that he’d been left behind.

How do You Cure Separation Anxiety?

More disappointing news: there is no proven cure for separation anxiety. There are a handful of trainers that feel strongly that it can be trained out, but it is very possible for the dog to revert to their old habits, and go back to crying, pacing, chewing, urinating, or any other behaviors that happen as a result of separation anxiety. Unfortunately, adding another pet to the home isn’t guaranteed to work, either.

What do you do, if there’s no cure?

If you can afford to do so, simply take your dog to a reputable daycare. Not only will your special friend have a safe place to be when you’re away, but they will also have other dogs to play with, and new humans to meet! If this isn’t feasible, there are things you can do to make your home more hospitable. Leaving your sweaty clothes in their beds may help to soothe them. Pressure shirts, the most popular of which is the Thundershirt, may also be of assistance. Some dogs love soft music and aromatherapy, or a loud television show. A chew toy is another great thing that may help your dog to feel better when you must leave him. A phone call to local rescue groups and pet shops may also present some more unique options for you to try.

What if those don’t work?

There are other medicinal options. If you live in a state where cannabis has been legalized for widespread use, a local dispensary may carry a CBD oil that is for use only in dogs and cats. Its best, though, to check with your vet. My dog was using Prozac for about a year, and would sometimes need a sedative on top of that - my pup, though, had Extreme Separation Anxiety, and needed much more care. When in doubt about medicines or therapy to treat your dog’s separation anxiety, always consult your veterinarian.