It is not abnormal for dogs to experience anxiety. When your dog is anxious, he or she may display a wide array of behavior including growling, urinating, drooling, howling, chewing, digging or trying to escape. Such dog anxiety occurs when dogs do not know how to behave when they are without their owners. They are expressing fear and nervousness, and their stress by displaying such behavior. You will know that the dog is displaying these behaviors when separation anxiety occurs, not as a general behavior pattern, but when there is the slightest hint that you might be leaving. If your dog does not usually howl or growl, but does so continually as you are about to leave the house (or your neighbor complains that this is what they do while you are gone), it is because of separation anxiety. Basically, if your leaving the house triggers a certain behavior, your dog anxiety is a result of his or her separation from you.
Diagnosing and Treating Dog Anxiety
There are a couple of things to consider while you are thinking of the best ways in which to deal with dog anxiety. First off, you will need to learn what the root of your dog’s anxiety. Often times, it can be that your dog just does not know how to handle life without you because they have not been taught how to do this. This means that you slowly have to train them. One way to start doing this is by leaving them home for short periods of time. You can give them their favorite treat or favorite toy, and, while they are playing with it, try to sneak a trip downstairs to the car and back. When you get back home, see how your dog handled the situation. Given him or her lots of treats for being able to remain calm without you. They need to know that they can trust you to not leave them and that they will be all right if you leave them for a little bit. Once they get used to five minutes, you can then try to get them used to ten minutes. In the same manner, slowly but surely leave your dog home for longer and longer periods of time. This is not going to happen in one day and if you do not make a very slow progression, you will be promoting the dog anxiety.
Sometimes, dogs might be more comfortable being left in a smaller portion of space with limited options rather than in the entire house. Our small pug, for example, has learned to stay in the kitchen and sleep on his towels for 12 hours at a time. All he needs is a treat when he goes into the kitchen and one treat when we return. He is not used to being able to have the run of the entire house and so if we were to leave him without a designated spot, he would be sure to freak out. Ideally, we would like to slowly transition him to a point where he is able to do this but we also know that today is not the day for that. He was promoted from having a small area in the crate to the entire crate and now to the entire kitchen. He loves sleeping on our bed so we would like to help him be able to feel comfortable laying on our bed and playing with his toys when we are not around.
When you are treating dog anxiety, it is important to remember that your goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying tension and teach him to enjoy, or at least be able to tolerate, being left alone. This is done by setting things up so that the experiences he has while you are away comfort him rather than promote his anxiety.