Separation - an act or instance of separating or the state of being separated.
Anxiety - an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension.
Separation anxiety is a common issue in dogs; more so in second hand dogs. This is something that I try to share with anyone wanting to adopt or rescue; just a heads up of the possibility. Separation can come in many forms and range from very mild to severe and possibly dangerous. Over the years I have dealt with many cases; the worst one being a dog that broke and jumped out of glass windows. That was a scary one.
Many people think that their dog has separation anxiety when in reality it is just missing them. There is a difference between wishing you would stay home and not being able to cope with your absence. Second hand dogs have already been abandoned; so it makes sense that they think the possibility of it occurring again is a good one. When you leave, they panic.
When you acquire a dog, whether it be a new puppy or an adult; you must begin the leaving process. Of course with a new adult dog you want to hang around for a bit so that they get use to their new home etc etc. But as soon as they are comfortable, go out. Start with short outings and do it often. If you have no where to go; just go out and do something. Make your exit and your arrival a non issue, no big deal.
When you are at home don't hover. Don't be a cling-on owner. Owners who can never be away from their dog create a whole bucket full of problems; separation anxiety being one of them. By over indulging your own need to be with your dog 24/7 you are handicapping your dog. You may think that you are doing a good thing but just imagine how your dog feels. They are use to you smothering them with attention each and every second of the day. When you leave there is a huge vacuum (a space not filled or occupied; emptiness; void) that your dog cannot deal with.
When dogs do have separation anxiety it can be in the form of peeing or pooping in the house or their crate. They can become destructive or try to escape the confines of their home or yard to come to find you. True separation anxiety is a serious behavior issue and must be dealt with as it often gets worse over time. Dogs must learn that they can deal with your absence and be fine with it. But teaching a dog who already has anxiety due to your separation can be difficult and take a long time. Patience, kindness and understanding is a must.
There are many things that you can try if you have a dog that may be exhibiting some signs of anxiety. Leave a radio or television on when you leave. Do a lot of mock coming and going runs. Make sure that your dog has enough mental and physical stimulation. This means exercise and getting out to see the world. Leave a Kong filled with frozen food in it to create a positive association to your leaving. Get some alone time even when you are together. Keep the petting down to a minimum.
If you have a dog with severe separation anxiety call a professional who uses positive reinforcement methods of behavior modification. Yanking, yelling or disciplining a dog will just make it worse. Separation anxiety is a real disorder; do not brush it off as your dog acting out. Dogs don't act out in the way that we do. They don't do revenge type stuff. If a dog poops on the floor in front of the door it is not because they want you to step in it when you get home home. They are not plotting like "ha, there you go" for leaving them. It is caused by anxiety and it is a symptom of their emotional state.
Sometimes people add another dog in attempts to solve the loneliness they believe to be driving the behavior. It can work but often does not because the issue is YOUR absence. They don't care how many other dogs are around if you are not there. So you must address the issue before adding another into the mix. Like I said sometimes it does work but I have seen many people with more dogs and one with severe separation anxiety still.
Even if you don't have big issues with separation; no big good byes. Don't go crazy when you get home sending your dog into a frenzy of "YOU'RE HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Of course every once in a while is fine but make coming and going a non issue. It will really help your dog deal with your absence.