How many dogs suffer from separation anxiety?

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Dog separation anxiety

It is not difficult to find the answer to the question in the title. In America, the AVMA states that it is the most common canine behaviour problem and has been diagnosed in 20% to 40% of dogs referred to dog behaviour experts in North America. This amounts to a maximum of approximately 35.8 million dogs suffering from this form of anxiety in N. America. One expert, Dr Stephanie Schwartz believes that separation anxiety in dogs and cats is a similar disorder to phobic disorders and panic attacks in people.

Dog separation anxiety

Dog separation anxiety. Photo by Steshka Willems from Pexels

I would expect there to be a similar percentage in the United Kingdom. Does having two dogs stop separation anxiety? It might not because the dogs are suffering anxiety because of separation from their owner not from another dog of the same status. Sometimes the dogs try to escape which can lead to injuries or they become destructive in the home especially around exit points from the home such as windows and doors, according to the ASPCA.

Managing canine separation anxiety

How do you beat canine separation anxiety? Well, clearly the most effective way to stop it happening is to be with your dog for longer periods and much more often. This is where coronavirus lockdowns have been of huge benefit to dog owners. But what happens when it’s all over and we are back to some kind of normal? There will be more home working which will help solve the problem. It might create new non-canine problems however. The Humane Society in America say that you can treat minor separation anxiety in dogs by not making a big deal about arrivals and departures. You should ignore your dog for the first few minutes on your arrival and then calmly pet them.

In addition, you might leave your dog with some of your smelly clothes to reassure him or her. You might also train your dog to understand that you are going to come back. You can do this through words or actions. You can also try the over-the-counter calming products. However, these don’t really address the fundamental problem.

These won’t help

The Humane Society also state that getting another dog won’t help. They agree that the anxiety comes about because of a separation from their human guardian. Also, leaving the radio or television on to create some background noise won’t help. Putting your dog into a crate clearly won’t help and it may make matters worse. Punishment is always a no-no with respect to companion animals. That will make things worse.

Particular causes

Separation anxiety in dogs can be brought on by being left alone for the first time or when being left alone after becoming used to being around their human companion. It can occur after suffering an unpleasant time at a shelter or boarding kennel and it might be due to a change in routine or structure in the household. A loss of family member or parent may also bring it on.

Pandemic

There is a particular problem with the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. These are often inexperienced dog owners and the dogs might have been relinquished and readopted on more than one occasion. This can create a fearful dog which compounds the possibility of separation anxiety occurring.