Is it Really A Separation Anxiety?

A common complaint of dog owners is that their dogs are destructive, excessively vocal, or urinate/defecate, only when left alone.  While these problems may be due to a separation anxiety there is a possibility that these dogs have learned that it is only “safe” to engage in these activities when their owner is not home.  Distinguishing between the two requires careful questioning.  The table illustrates some of the topics to discuss with clients when suspecting a separation anxiety.  The check marks indicate the more likely diagnosis for the behavior.  Multiple check marks are necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

Separation
Anxiety
Condition
Behavior
Chewing and scratching at doorways, windows, May include chewing carpet in these areas.
Chewing or soiling areas that have strong owner scents.
Panting, pacing, drooling, self-licking, shadowing owner from room, before actual separation.  Frantic greeting when owner returns.
Dog owned by someone else before.
Dog punished by owner for engaging in same activities when owner home.
Occurs at specific absences or every time that owner leaves.
Counter surfing, ingesting or shredding garbage.
Dog will sneak off while owner home and engaging in same behaviors.
Change in household such as death, divorce, returning to work or seasonal worker.
Problem behavior occurs even leaves for 5 to 10 minutes.

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