A common issue many dog owners face, especially early on, is a dog’s disruptive and possibly destructive behavior when they are left alone. Some possible behaviors might include: barking, howling, chewing, digging, urinating, defecating or trying to escape. When the dog is still young it is possible these issues are an indication that the dog needs some better training and manners. However this can also be a symptom that your baby is experiencing distress. The problem is that they can’t talk to us and tell us.
If your dog shows other signs of distress such as showing signs of anxiety when you are preparing to leave the house it is likely that the problem is not a training issue but that your puppy has separation anxiety.
When I first got my baby, Dodger, he was a puppy and I was living alone in an apartment. Having had dogs growing up I thought he would be a great companion and help me as I worked to adjust to a new state, a new job, and a completely new life.
I create trained him and he cried every time I left. I thought this was just because he was locked up and I felt bad about it but didn’t think he was ready to be out and left to his own devices. Eventually I started to leave him out at night and he would sleep in bed with me. As he started to get a little older (in a dog’s life that can be weeks J) he’d start to climb out of bed in the mornings on his own. On the weekends he started getting me up and would not let me be unless I was in the same room with him. I should have realized then that there may have been a problem but it was just the two of us and other than some occasional annoyance I let it be.
Eventually I started to let him out during the day for short periods. This is when I noticed we had a problem. While being left out during the day all alone, even for short periods of time (an hour or two) he managed to a great deal of damage. I would then put him back in the crate and then try again a few days later but the damage just continued. While trying to leave him out Dodger managed to accomplish the following (among other things as well):
- Chew a hole in my wall
- Ripe up/Dig up the linoleum by the front door
- Wreck the window blinds
- Break some lamps
- Eat some electronic hand held game consoles
I had no idea what to do but talked to a trainer I had been working with. Through some “tests” (basically her taking Dodger and me walking out of site a few times) she felt that Dodger had separation anxiety. This is something we worked on fixing thru training.
Unfortunately it didn’t work that well. In the end what did fix the problem was giving him two brothers to spend his days with. Not the best or most practical solution for most though 🙂
At the time I didn’t know a lot about the problem and relied on the trainer to help me out as I just felt hopeless. I knew something was wrong but just didn’t know how to make it better. I didn’t want to medicate him – he was just a puppy and it didn’t seem right. I hoped training would be the key but alas.
Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in dogs
Note that these behaviors are typically when the dog’s parent/guardian is not at home or is out of site. Sometimes an owner just leaving the room and closing the door (like if they went to use the restroom) could be enough to set off these behaviors. If these things are done in front of the owner or in their presence it is likely that the issue is something other than separation anxiety.
- Barking and Howling: A dog may bark or howl when left alone or separated from their guardian. This behavior is persistent and does not appear to be triggered by anything other than being left alone.
- Urinating and Defecating: Some dogs will urinate or defecate in the house when they are left alone or separated. This is a behavior they only do when left alone.
- Chewing, Digging and other Destruction: Some dogs will chew on things like window sills or door frames. They may dig at the doors or in the doorways and they may destroy household object when they are left alone or separated.
- Escaping: Dogs with separation anxiety may try to escape when left alone. This could be an attempt to “break out” of their crate or thru a doggie gate. This could be an attempt to dig and chew through doors or windows in an attempt to get out.
- Pacing: Some dogs will walk along a specific path in a fixed pattern when they are left alone. Some will walk back and forth in straight lines while others may pace in circular patterns.
What Causes Separation Anxiety
Honestly there is currently no conclusive evidence showing why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety. However from what has been learned over the years there are some things that may trigger this development in some dogs:
- Change of guardian or family: Being abandoned, surrendered or given to a new owner
- Change in schedule: An abrupt change in terms of when or how they are left alone. An example would be if the owner used to be home all day for work and then suddenly has to start going into the office on a regular basis or has to start traveling a lot.
- Change in residence: Just like with people a move can cause some anxiety for a dog.
- Change in household: Typically from a loss such as a passing or someone moving away but can also occur with new members being added
If you believe your dog has separation anxiety it is best to consult your vet so that you can rule out any possible medical problems or any issues that may be caused by any medications your dog may be on.
If your dog has a more mild case of separation anxiety it is likely that their vet will suggest some training. They may suggest that you try conditioning which is to teach your dog some new behaviors with a new emotional response to being alone. This can be done by leaving a treat or toy for your pet when you leave creating a pleasant emotional response to the separation. This has been successful for many pet owners when the issue is not as destructive and a bit more mild.
The vet may also recommend more daily rigorous exercise. This is meant to be a great way to help lessen the symptoms of anxiety just like it does in humans. With enough exercise I find my dogs are sometimes just too tired to cause any damage so this can work as well. Depending on the level of anxiety, bread and the age however you may need to really work out your dog. A half hour walk is not likely to be sufficient.
More severe cases however may require a dog to see a specialist and in some cases the use of prescription medication may be used. These medications however do have side effects such as dry mouth, increased appetite and drowsiness just to name a few common ones.
The use of CBD Oil to help with a Dog’s Separation Anxiety
Currently there is no formal research evaluating the use of CBD for treating Separation Anxiety for dogs. However it is known that humans and dogs have the same endocannabinoid system and as a result do react to many drugs (natural and otherwise) similarly. As more and more research is being done on humans and the use of CBD oil people are using this to help treat their K-9 friends as well with much success.
A 2018 study published by Frontiers of Veterinary Science found CBD oil to provide a significant decrease in pain systems (which was the purpose of the study). This study also showed that CBD Oil did not result in any negative side effects in the dogs which makes this a potentially safe alternative treatment for our furry friends.
Information was published in 2015 in Neurotherapeutics that showed CBD reduced anxiety in a variety of disorders including generalized anxiety and obsessive-compulsive. With the similarity of humans and dogs and their endocannabinoid system it is believed that these same benefits would be seen in dogs.
The CBD Oil will bond with receptors in the body to stimulate communication with the endocannabinoid system. It allows the system to better recognize what’s wrong and what needs to be done. As a result chemical transmissions are initiated to bring things back in balance which can result in a calmer and more relaxed puppy.
Should you use CBD Oil to help with your Dog’s Separation Anxiety?
Many pet owners have tried CBD as a way to help their dogs cope with Separation Anxiety and have reported a great amount of success. Those that have reported success have reported happy K-9 companions and a much better and more pleasant relationship. You should however make sure you consult with your vet first to ensure that this is the issue your companion is truly suffering from and it is not something else.
If you decide to try CBD Oil to help your dog with this issue make sure you use a high-quality CBD product and administer the recommended dosage. For this particular issue it is recommended you administer it about 15 minutes before you plan to leave your dog alone so that there is time for it to take effect prior to you leaving.
Make sure to monitor your dog for any possible side effects such as drowsiness and dry mouth. Although these mild side effects are possible CBD is safe on dogs, easy to administer and has shown some good results for the treatment/help of separation anxiety.
If you have any questions, comments, insights or stories to share please leave a comment below.