Dog whining topped the charts as the no1 separation anxiety behaviour according to some research aided by the Danish Animal Welfare Society.
So , if you have been wondering what a dog with separation anxiety does when they are left home alone, this study set out to distinguish the kinds of dog behaviour displayed by dogs and look at what else happened to them during a 4 hour period of time.
Dog whining was used by a whopping 95% of dog to show their anxiety, which is bad news if you have got a dog with separation anxiety and also have neighbors! To make things worse, the study showed clearly that dog whining was closely linked with a dog howling as well , which is not only much louder than whining, the noise also carries over longer distances.
Vocalisation and Destructive Behaviour in Dogs
Video recordings were used to look at the pattern of activity of dogs with separation anxiety problems when left at home alone and divided the dogs behavior into the following separate categories:
- Vocalisation; including barking, howling and whining
- Destruction; including scratching, digging, chewing and ripping objects apart
- Appetite related activities; including sniffing at different objects and nosing under doors
- Displacement activities; including yawning and licking
- Predator behaviour;
Of all the categories analysed, the clearest relationship was between dogs that showed vocalisation and destructive behaviour. This cross over was seen in 80% of the dogs in the study.
Affect of Time on Separation Anxiety Behavior
The dogs activities were plotted against a time chart and the results confirmed that separation anxiety behaviour reached peak intensity soon after the owner left them alone and then customarily reduced exponentially over a period of time.
However, if the dogs fears were reignited by external stimuli (like noise) the time pattern was often reset to the beginning, so the dog took an equal length of time to start to calm down once more. The more sensitive the dog, the less clear the time patterns appeared, which explains why some dogs can continue to bark without ceasing during the day.
Study Dispels 2 Myths about Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Interestingly, the study rounded up by saying that there was no data to show that separation anxiety behaviours were caused by disobedience or boredom. Hopefully this may go some way towards exposing some of the significant myths around separation anxiety in dogs.
For instance, it is quite frequently assumed that boredom is the reason behind a dog’s bad behavior when left home alone. This interpretation leaves many dog owners feeling guilty and thinking they need to heap their dog with interesting toys before they’re going out.
One more reason that you frequently hear from dog owners who come home to destruction and mess, is that their dog does it on purpose, almost to spite them for being left home alone. But if disobedience is not a component in dog separation anxiety behaviour then this reason also starts to seem like another of those myths.
Understanding is not the same as Action
As engaging as studies like this are, and as handy as they are to help us increase our knowledge of separation anxiety in dogs, action is what is needed to stop the anxiety. So if your dog shows any of the symptoms discussed, get yourself a good dog separation anxiety training program and get into action now!
The Author, Venice Marriott found out about dog anxiety first hand with her own rescue dog Sherlock and has been finding out about the effects of anxiety and the most effective methods to reduce anxiety for the last 2 years. Find out more about dog whining and separation anxiety by visiting her blog.
Many dog owners need to know how long they can leave their dog home alone, but despite all of the talk about if it is absolutely fine, or wicked beyond words to leave a dog alone, or whether 2, 4, 6 or more hours are O.K, it is not easy to find any expert prepared to give a definite time.
On the dog forums, lots of different times are talked about and you frequently see viewpoints like ’4 hours are best’ but nobody ever asserts what that figure relies on. Is it a guess? Is it based on years of experience with lots of dogs? Or is it driven by feelings of guilt? It’d be good to see some scientific research done into the topic to take a look at what the short term and long-term effects are on dogs.
It’s Your Judgement Call
Because there’s no answer on the question of time, if it is fair to leave your dog home alone and for how long is a judgement you have to make.
In a world where more and more of us need to work full time, our dogs are usually left out of need rather than choice, so the best we could do is spent quality time with them when we are able to be around them, and make sure they are fine when we can’t.
As our dogs are individuals and will all respond differently to being left alone, we need to work at understanding how they cope with being alone and sort out any problems that come up like separation anxiety in dogs.
Dealing With The Guilt
There are tons of people who want you to feel guilty if you leave your dog for more than even one or two hours. Mention that you’re out at work full time on some of the forums and you could have folk letting you know in no uncertain terms that you do not deserve to have a dog.
The truth is, many of us do feel guilty when we leave our dogs, but that doesn’t help either us or the dog. But, if we can accept that in an ideal world none of us would leave our dogs alone for long, then face up to the undeniable fact that few of us live in an ideal world and make the absolute best job of it we are able to, we ought to be able to live with our conscience.
Author Venice Marriott is a writer and dog owner and runs a Dog Anxiety website, which provides help and information for dog owners dealing with dog anxiety. Get more information about leaving dogs home alone when you visit the site.