Welcoming a dog into your family can be an exciting time. Sixty-seven percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
The first step in being a responsible dog owner begins before you even bring home your new furry friend. As a potential or current dog owner, you must thoughtfully assess your needs and lifestyle when choosing your new addition to the family.
With hundreds of dog breeds out there it is important to understand the strengths in each breed when welcoming home a new pet. Researching which breeds have the size, energy level, temperament, trainability, and other traits that best fit your lifestyle can be extremely helpful when deciding which dog is right for you.
If you have a full or part-time job, it’s very common for dogs to be left home for eight or 10 hours five days a week. With options like day care and services that come to your house to walk your dog, you have a variety of options as a pet owner. These options can be expensive, however, and they don’t change the fact that you’ll be separated from your companion for long stretches of time during weekdays and possibly over the weekend.
Separation anxiety in dogs goes beyond the occasional whimper or bark when you leave the house or the mysterious chewed up shoe that appears in your bedroom when you return home. Unlike a little boredom when your dog is left alone, separation anxiety can be the result of real stress in your pet.
Tell-Tale Signs Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Some signs of separation anxiety in dogs, according to the American Kennel Club, can be:
- Barking, whining or howling to alert – More than just a bark to let you know they have to go out or that the ever mysterious mailman has made a delivery. Barking, whining or howling to alert is a sign of your dog asking, “where are you?”
- Hyper Greetings – While you’ve been away your dog has been panicking. When you arrive home your dog might go to the bathroom upon seeing you, jump on you or become extremely attached to you. The biggest difference in a hyper, stressed greeting is the duration, intensity and vocalizations your dog makes.
- Destructive Behavior – This goes beyond chewing on a pair of shoes. Has your dog ever gone into full demolition mode destroying furniture, pillows, clothing and anything else in his/her way? This is typically a destructive release of nervous energy that would benefit from therapy or medication.
- Excessive Salivation, Drooling, or Panting – When you reach for your keys a dog exhibiting separation anxiety might become severely distressed and begin drooling and panting uncontrollably. This action gets worse when you leave, and symptoms are still displayed upon your return. Again, the duration of stressed behavior is indicative of a potentially larger issue.
Dog Breeds Most Likely to Suffer from Separation Anxiety
There is no specific known cause for separation anxiety, though it seems to be more common in breeds known to be “people-pleasing” or “companions” as well as rescue animals. If you’re looking to add a new canine into your life, keep in mind that these four breeds are more prone to separation anxiety. “In my experience, the four most common breeds of dogs that exhibit signs of separation anxiety are typically Labrador Retrievers, Chihuahuas (both mixed breeds and standards), German Shepherds and Cocker Spaniels”, says Dr. Butch Mitchell, a private practice veterinarian at the Davie Veterinary Clinic in Davie, Florida.
Labrador Retrievers: Labrador Retrievers can be some of the most devoted pets. Bred to be a working dog, sometimes this “working” trait translates into an intense attachment to their owners. As a result, they can oftentimes possess an intense need to be around their humans that can manifest into separation anxiety when apart even just for a short period. For Labs, managing separation anxiety symptoms could include more exercise. Before leaving for the day take your dog on a long walk or run or play a game of fetch. If poor behavioral issues persist, you may need to consult your veterinarian about medication such as a generic anti-anxiety regimen as part of a comprehensive behavior management program.
Chihuahua: Chihuahuas are tiny dogs with huge personalities. This breed would be a welcomed addition to a home that is in a city or a family living in a smaller confined space, as they don’t need large areas to run and play in. Loyal and smart, Chihuahuas can possess a “Napoleon” personality that if left untrained can dominate your household. Coping with a small dog that has separation anxiety can be challenging. When leaving your Chihuahua at home create smaller enclosed areas for them to be in while using gates and closing off certain rooms. This will help them to feel more secure. Again, if the behavioral issues continue to manifest and increase in intensity or duration, anti-anxiety medication such as generic Clomipramine Hydrochloride tablets may be warranted.
German Shepherds: Like Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds are people pleasers. Known for their working dog mentalities, German Shepherds do best when they have a job. Protecting and being with their owners might be one of their favorite tasks of all, but when separated this breed can show severe anxiety symptoms. As German Shepherds are a large breed, typically weighing between 50 to 88 pounds, it can be quite an intimidating experience for you, family and friends. When you notice your German Shepherd beginning to show signs of separation anxiety it is important to act calmly and work to comfort him. You may also want to seek more information from your veterinarian regarding FDA-approved anti-anxiety medication tailored specifically for larger dogs.
Cocker Spaniel: Cocker Spaniels have become one of the most popular breeds among families. Because of their personality, size and temperament it has become increasingly popular to breed Cocker Spaniels with other breeds, an example being a Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle). Since Cocker Spaniels and Cocker Spaniel mixed breeds are known for being attached to their owners it is important to introduce training at a young age. Some tips to help with your Cocker Spaniel’s separation anxiety would be to make sure they have enough toys out in order to provide ample stimulation. When occupied your dog will be less likely to notice you ever left. Try leaving the TV or radio on to help distract them while you are away.
Anti-Anxiety Medication for Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Although some dog breeds tend to exhibit stronger separation anxiety symptoms than others all dogs can be susceptible to these behaviors. It’s important to remember not to punish your furry friend for their anxious behavior – they can’t help sometimes being stressed! Instead work to train your dog to feel comfortable while you are away. If training isn’t enough it might be time to consult with your veterinarian to talk about different treatment options such as anti-anxiety medication.
Anti-anxiety medicine for dogs such as Clomipramine Hydrochloride tablets have been shown by the FDA to be safe and effective in treating anxiety disorders. The best part is that a new generic version of medicine for treating anxiety in dogs is now available providing significant cost savings for dog owners throughout the United States.