What is Separation Anxiety in Dogs?
Understanding why your dog barks when you leave is probably the most important part of it all. You can’t fix something without having a thorough grasp of what the underlying cause is. Dogs bark when left alone for a multitude of reasons, the most common of which is separation anxiety.
To put it simply, your dog is attached to you and may become stressed when you leave. They want to be by your side all day and all night. They want to get up when you get up, go out when you go out, walk three feet when you walk three feet. (Or maybe that’s just our dogs?)
Separation Anxiety Symptoms in Dogs
The most common separation anxiety symptoms in dogs include:
- Excessive vocalization: This can involve barking, howling, whining, or whimpering when left alone.
- Destructive behavior: Dogs with separation anxiety may chew on furniture, doors, or household items in an attempt to escape or alleviate their anxiety.
- House or crate soiling: Some dogs may urinate or defecate indoors, even if they are otherwise house trained, when left alone.
- Pacing and restlessness: Dogs with separation anxiety often exhibit repetitive movements, such as pacing back and forth or continuously circling a specific area.
- Escape attempts: Dogs may attempt to escape from crates, rooms, or enclosed areas in an effort to find their owners.
- Excessive drooling and panting: This can occur even in the absence of physical exertion or hot weather.
- Loss of appetite: Some dogs may experience a decreased appetite or even refuse to eat.
- Overattachment: Dogs with separation anxiety may follow their owners around the house excessively and display clingy behavior, seeking constant attention and physical contact.
- Depression or lethargy: Some dogs may become withdrawn, display a lack of energy, and show signs of depression when left alone.
It's important to note that these symptoms can vary in intensity and present differently from dog to dog. For example, some dogs will only bark when their owner leaves them alone, whereas others will bark, be destructive, and try to escape.
There is no conclusive evidence as to why dogs have separation anxiety, but it could be for a number of reasons. Shelter dogs are typically prone to more extreme separation anxiety than puppies that are taken in at a very young age. Other reasons include a change of a guardian, a change in routine or even moving into a new house or apartment.
Whatever the case, separation anxiety is known to trigger barking in dogs that are left alone.
Why Do Dogs Bark When Left Alone?
Outside of dog separation anxiety, additional reasons a dog may bark when left alone include, but aren’t limited to:
- Breed and genetics
Just like humans, dogs appreciate being productive and busy. The bottom line is, when dogs are stuck in a crate for a certain amount of time, they get bored.
They want to get out and get busy, play with their toys, interact with their humans, eat a treat (or five) and stretch their legs. There is a good chance that your canine companion is merely barking out of boredom.
Breed and Genetics
Another simple explanation for why your dog is barking a lot is because of their breed and genetic makeup. Genetics and breeding for specific traits can play a big role in a dog’s proclivity for barking. Do some additional research on the ancestral history of your buddy’s breed, and see if their genetics have anything to do with their tendency to yap.
For instance, Basenjis are typically quieter dogs, while terriers tend to be more vocal. This isn’t always consistent, as it really depends on how your dog was raised and where it came from. Environmental factors have a lot to do with it as well.
Your dog’s excessive barking could also stem from fear. Noises in the distances or noises in your home can trigger your dog barking out of fear or alarm. Your dog is instinctively protective, and will bark at noises that startle them.
Note: These aren’t the only reasons your dog might be barking in excess. It’s always good to speak to your veterinarian if your dog is exhibiting any type of behavior that is alarming or excessive, and figure out a game plan that will work for you and your companion moving forward.
How to Treat Separation Anxiety in Dogs
There are several options for treating separation anxiety in dogs. In most cases, treatment will involve a combination of behavior modification techniques, environmental management. In some cases, it may also require the use of medication and professional evaluation. That said, the commonly accepted methods for to treat dog separation anxiety are:
- Gradual desensitization: gradually getting your pet used to be alone
- Counter-conditioning: Creating positive associations with your departure cues (i.e. giving them a treat or special toy)
- Creating a routine for feeding, exercise, and alone time
- Giving them mental stimulation: Think puzzles and interactive feeders
In truth, many of the methods for how to treat separation anxiety in dogs, are the same ideas for how to stop a dog barking when you leave regardless of the cause.
How to Stop Dog Barking When Left Alone
Once you understand why your dog barks when you leave, you can move on to how to address the disruptive behavior. Training your dog to stop barking will require some tools, time, and a lot of love and patience, but it will be well worth it for both your dog and your neighbors.
One way to keep your dog from barking is to create a comfortable and cozy space for them when you leave. Invest in a high-quality, durable crate that feels safe, confining, and becomes a place that they want to go when you leave. Crate training is a good way to calm your dog when the environment around them becomes overwhelming and scary.
The Groov Training Aid is a great way to get your dog to actually enjoy crate time. The treats you can add to it such as peanut butter or their favorite spread can help calm them down, and give them something fun to do while they get used to being in the crate. While we highly recommend the Revol Dog Crate and the Enventur Travel Kennel, it's worth noting that if you already have your own crate, the Groov Crate Training Aid is compatible with most standard wire crates.
Crate training is not a magical solution to any one type of behavior, so make sure you’re reading up on the proper ways to crate train and come up with a plan that makes sense for you and your dog. Investing in a crate training tool is one way to facilitate the process of getting your pup to love their crate. The goal is to make Fido feel more comfortable and give them less of a reason to bark when you’re gone.
Safe Toys for Play
Supply your furry babe with a safe toy for play with when you’re not around to help reduce stress and boredom. Make absolutely sure that your dog can play with the toy of your choosing when not supervised. These toys will help fight boredom when you’re forced to leave your dog at home, and will hopefully distract them enough to keep them from barking.
The safety of a toy depends on a number of things. How big is your dog? How old is your dog? What breed is your dog? Be sure to provide your canine with a correctly-sized toy, as toys that are too small can become choking hazards. Again, always consult with your vet or do a deep dive into research before leaving your dog at home with a toy.
Another tip as it relates to toys is to supply your pup with an “only-when-I’m-gone” chew. Better yet, make it a high-dollar novelty toy that your pet will fall in love with. This could be something like an interactive yet sturdy toy that’s stuffed with canned dog food, peanut butter, or carrots.
Not only is it a diversion tactic, but it will keep your pet busy for a very long time. In addition to that, your dog will associate you leaving with this extra-special treat only given to them by you.
Noise and Music
Most dogs appreciate some light tunes or background noise when left alone. Put the radio on, some white noise, your pup’s favorite film, or some music.
Some recommendations are 101 Dalmatians, Turner & Hooch, or Oliver & Company. Guaranteed hits! The goal is to get your home to a level of noise that is similar to when you are present and active in the space.
Tire Them Out
Hot tip: A tired dog is a quiet dog. Prior to you leaving your home, take them to the park and get them moving. Have them socialize with other dogs, play fetch or incorporate other forms of active play into this session.
A long walk should do the trick too. Your pup will come home and be ready to tucker out.
Comfort Blanket or Pet Pad
Keep a comfy blanket or pet pad made with safe materials readily available for your dog when you leave the house. Even better if the blanket smells like you. Just like familiar sounds, you’ll want to supply your darling dog with familiar scents that will make them feel at ease.
Studies have found that dog brains link pleasure with their owner’s scent. That’s right! An owner’s scent activates the parts of a dog‘s brain associated with pleasure.
Providing familiar scents for your dog when you’re away from the house will ease their anxieties and ultimately help the barking subside.
A Calming Treat
There are treats that you can give your dog that will take the edge off. Feeding your canine companion calming dental sticks or chews is a good way to relieve some of their anxiety before you leave the house.
These treats are made with calming properties and usually contain Valerian root, hemp, and chamomile. Again, read through every ingredient on the packaging and consult your vet before giving your pet something new. Every dog is different.
The calm ingredients typically take a moment to kick in, so give your pup that treatment prior to your departure from the house. It’s best to have them finish the chew or treat before you leave, as it is always safer for them to consume if they are supervised.
Hire a Dog Walker
If you’ve got the extra cash to spare, it might be good to invest in a daily dog walker to come and relieve your pet. These breaks in alone time can help in a number of ways and will give you the peace of mind you need while you’re away from home.
Not only do these walks promote health and wellness, but the exercise that your dog gets from these walks will tire them out. When they’re back in their crate and the dog walker leaves, they’ll be ready for a nap and less inclined to bark.
In addition, these quick walks while you’re gone allow Fido to socialize with other humans. Frequent contact like this keeps your pet-friendly, social, and happy. It’s key to vet your dog walker before hiring them. Make sure you’re bringing a trusted caretaker into your home.
A Comfortable Space
You’ve already read about some of the ways you can create physical comfort for your pet, like providing a blanket or pet pad with a familiar scent, or crating your dog when you leave. But we can’t reiterate enough how important it is to create a safe haven for your pup when you leave the house.
For those of you that do not crate your dog, make sure they are set up for success by supplying a bed, plenty of water, and a room that’s temperature-controlled. Your dog will feel comfy, stay quiet, and your neighbors will thank you.
Train While at Home
Training sessions, while you are at home, will help with the barking when you’re not. This can happen in baby steps. Step outside your door for a moment. After just a few seconds, come back in and reward your pet for their quiet and calm behavior (that’s if, in fact, they stayed calm and quiet while you were on the other side of the door).
Keep tacking on time (start with a few seconds, then a few minutes, so on and so forth) until they are staying quiet for the whole duration. This is a training method that must be done consistently and repetitively. You will not see results overnight.
A Calm, Quiet Solution for Everyone
As you can see, there are a ton of things you can do to keep your dog from barking while you’re not home. Understanding the why is first and foremost, as the issue is less likely to be resolved if you don’t know the root of it.
From there, consider crate training with a high-quality and durable crate, providing safe toys for play and keeping subtle noises going in the background. A fun flick or the radio will do! If your dog prefers to be out of a crate, set them up with a snug space that will leave them feeling taken care of.
Other tips include tiring them out before you leave the house, supplying a comfortable blanket or pet pad with familiar scents, or giving them calming treats prior to your departure. Knowing what ingredients are ok for your dog is vital before feeding. In addition, incorporating training sessions into your day when you are at home will help with the problem when you’re not.
Lastly, hiring a dog walker is a great consideration if you’re not strapped for cash. Having a trusted caretaker pop by over the course of when you’re gone will keep your pet stimulated and will give you peace of mind.
It’s important to mention that punishing your dog for barking out of fear or separation anxiety will only make matters worse. Do not use a shock collar or any other type of negative training method.
It’ll only instill more fear and anxiety in your furry loved one, which none of us want. Kindness is vital. Remember that time, repetition and a good training plan will be crucial to breaking the bad habit of incessant barking. Patience is key, so stick with it.
The Best Dog Crate for Separation Anxiety
Crate training your dog is one of the best ways to keep them safe, calm and secure any time of day–all of which can help reduce barking.
Inspired by the safety and quality standards of the baby product industry, we created our Revol Dog Crate to be the perfect blend of safety, durability, functionality, and aesthetic appeal for pets and pet parents alike.
Made with the modern pet parent in mind, the Revol Dog Crate:
- is ergonomically designed and easily collapsible with one hand for storage and transportation;
- is designed to feel open even when closed, thanks to the special diamond-shaped mesh pattern for the walls and roof;
- is built to last with durable yet lightweight materials.
- is available in spacious sizes designed to the maximum size accommodations;
- comes with a puppy divider so your crate can grow with your fur baby;
- is safe and secure enough for even the most precocious pup;
- and has specially-designed accessories available to make your dog's crate truly feel like home.
Commonly Asked Questions
To close things out, below are three of the most commonly asked questions we see related to dog separation anxiety.
Do dogs outgrow separation anxiety?
While some dogs may outgrow separation anxiety as they mature and gain more confidence, for many dogs, it is a condition that requires ongoing management and support.
It is important to address the root causes of separation anxiety and implement behavior modification techniques to help the dog cope with being alone.
How do I train my dog to be alone?
To train your dog to be alone, start by gradually desensitizing them to your departure cues. Leave for short periods and gradually increase the duration over time, rewarding calm behavior. Create a positive association by giving your dog special treats or toys when you leave, and establish a consistent routine that includes alone time.
How do you calm a dog with separation anxiety?
Calming a dog with separation anxiety involves a multi-faceted approach. Provide mental stimulation through interactive toys or puzzles, engage in regular exercise to help burn off excess energy, and create a safe and comfortable space with familiar items. Calming aids such as pheromone diffusers or anxiety wraps may also help. In some cases, professional guidance from a veterinarian or dog behaviorist, as well as medication, may be necessary to effectively calm a dog with severe separation anxiety.
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