WE breed dogs to be our close companions.
Because of this, the majority of dogs prefer the company of people over other dogs, and as a species they are very good at reading human body language.
But work and social commitments frequently mean our dogs need to spend time on their own.
Normal dogs cope fine with time alone, usually spending the hours resting or sleeping.
Common fearful and anxious behaviors include house soiling, barking excessively, destructive behavior to their environment and themselves, drooling, restlessness, pacing and reluctance to eat/drink.
Some dogs with anxiety do not cope on their own, become very distressed and may even panic.
Sometimes it is obvious if the dog is creating a mess or the neighbours are complaining.
At other times it is not so easy to diagnose because the behaviour occurs only when you are not there.
If you are worried that your dog suffers from separation anxiety, set up a video camera or webcam and record what they are doing when you are not home.
Separation anxiety can be successfully managed from a variety of angles, but in severe cases, medication may be necessary.
Providing enjoyable activities for your dog while they are on their own can be useful, such as toys and food.
Try to encourage more independent behaviour by changing the way you interact with your dog and alter your departures and arrivals, such as packing your things the night before, or limiting your interaction with your pet before you leave.
Similarly, delay greeting your pet until they are calm and relaxed.
Obtaining a second dog only occasionally helps a dog that is suffering from separation anxiety, most dogs that suffer from the condition will not be comforted by the presence of another dog.
If you want to find out if another dog will help, trial it first by “borrowing” a dog for a short period, this could be a friend or family members pet.
It is important to remember that there is rarely a “quick fix” for behavioural problems in animals and they often require a lot of time and patience.
Signs of separation anxiety can also be signs of medical disease, so visit your veterinarian for a wellness exam and basic blood work, and to discuss options.