The 10 Most Common Misconceptions About Dog Separation Anxiety | Pupford

May 15th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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Separation anxiety in dogs is incredibly complex – there are a wide range of causes, signs, and ways to deal with it. There’s no one size fits all explanation or solution which, unfortunately, leaves it susceptible to a lot of misconceptions.

What happens then is many well-meaning pup parents fall victim to common myths about their dog’s separation anxiety and supposed “cures.” So then when something doesn’t work, or makes the problem worse, they’re left feeling confused and defeated.

And worst of all, their dog is still struggling.

If that sounds like you – don’t worry! Clearing up common misconceptions will help you better understand your dog’s separation anxiety and how to treat it.

Today we’re going to shed some light on those myths, why you shouldn’t believe them, and what you can do instead to help your dog overcome separation anxiety.  

THE TOP 10 COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SEPARATION ANXIETY

dog destroying things at home because they have separation anxiety

1. MY DOG'S SEPARATION ANXIETY IS MY FAULT

When you realized your dog had separation anxiety, was your first thought “what did I do to cause this?” If so, you’re not alone.

Most people assume it’s their fault that their dog has separation anxiety because they let them sleep in their bed, they worked from home during the pandemic and now are out of the house more, they had a baby, or a number of other changes.

So if you haven’t been told: separation anxiety is not your fault. It’s usually caused by a combination of environmental factors and your dog’s temperament, but it is not a direct result of one action.

2. GETTING A SECOND DOG WILL HELP WITH MY DOG'S SEPARATION ANXIETY

getting a second dog will not cure a dogs separation anxiety

Sure, there are a ton of great reasons to get another dog. But curing separation anxiety is not on that list.

You may think that getting a second dog will help because your first dog won’t technically be alone. But it’s actually the separation from you that’s causing the issue.

And believe it or not, the second dog may end up picking up the behavior(s) from your first dog since that’s what they’ll be observing – so this tactic tends to backfire on most people.

We recommend getting your current dog’s separation anxiety issues worked out before adding another furry family member!

3. YOU SHOULD LEAVE AN ANXIOUS DOG IN THEIR CRATE ALL DAY SO THEY DON'T DESTROY THE HOUSE

Crate training is a fantastic tool, both for dogs with and without separation anxiety. But keeping your dog confined in their crate without addressing the underlying anxiety issues can cause your dog to become more stressed, and form a negative association with their crate.

Instead, use crate training as a helpful tool in a well-rounded routine for your dog that makes their crate a relaxing place for them to unwind when they are alone.

4. ONLY PUPPIES GET SEPARATION ANXIETY

puppy with separation anxiety

Some people doubt that their dog has separation anxiety (when they really do!) because their dog is an adult. But it’s not just puppies who get separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety can be triggered at any age, especially if they have gone through a recent life change that causes them to be alone more. We have seen this a lot with dogs transitioning to post-pandemic life.

Don’t brush off signs of separation anxiety just because your dog is not a puppy!

Need more help dealing with your dog's separation anxiety? Check out our Separation Anxiety Course in Pupford Academy+.  

5. DOGS GROW OUT OF SEPARATION ANXIETY

Another misconception that stems from believing only puppies get separation anxiety is believing that dogs can grow out of separation anxiety on their own.

While it’s definitely possible for your dog’s separation anxiety to ease up over time, it has more to do with learning coping skills and becoming comfortable in their environment rather than “growing out of it.”

6. IT'S JUST A PHASE

nervous dog when their owner is going to leave them home alone

Phases are temporary moments in your dog’s life that they come out of on their own. Puppy fear periods, for example, are a part of development that are categorized by increased fear and stress – but your dog grows out of them on their own.

True separation anxiety, however, is not like that. It’s not a phase and it requires active effort and changes to get your dog through it.

7. SEPARATION ANXIETY CAN'T RANDOMLY START LATER IN LIFE

Some dog parents overlook their dog’s separation anxiety because the behavior(s) started randomly later in life. But separation anxiety doesn’t discriminate based on age, so just because your dog made it through puppyhood doesn’t mean they’re immune from developing separation anxiety at another point.

A few common events that can trigger separation anxiety later in life:

Remember, dogs thrive with predictability. Anytime that is disturbed, separation anxiety could develop.

8. EXERCISE CURES SEPARATION ANXIETY

While exercise is an important part of your dog’s overall health, it’s not a cure for separation anxiety.

It’s important to combine physical exercise, mental enrichment, training, and environmental changes for a holistic approach to overcoming separation anxiety.

9. YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE AN ANXIOUS DOG HOME ALONE

Some people think that their dog’s separation anxiety is the end of their social life. But it is absolutely possible to leave your dog home alone even if they are anxious.

Here are some things you can do to ease the stress of leaving your anxious dog home alone:

  • Practice a predictable routine so your dog knows you will return
  • Keep them in a dog-safe area to reduce destructive behavior and prevent injuries 
  • Give them enrichment toys to keep them calm and their brain busy
  • Play relaxing music or nature sounds to reduce reactions
what to do if your dog has separation anxiety

There are definitely more things you can try, but these are good tips to start with.

Need more help dealing with your dog's separation anxiety? Check out our Separation Anxiety Course in Pupford Academy+.  

10. YOUR DOG IS ACTING SPITEFUL ON PURPOSE

3 myths on separation anxiety

It’s hard not to get frustrated when your dog barks excessively, destroys things, chews the furniture, etc. while you’re gone.

Remember, your dog is not “giving you a hard time,” but rather they are “having a hard time.”

Separation anxiety is not a behavior issue, it’s a challenge and struggle that your dog is going through. They are not punishing you for leaving, rather they are showing you that they are stressed and uncomfortable.

Tackling the underlying issues and creating a more relaxing experience for your dog will drastically reduce these unwanted behaviors!

Now that you know fact from fiction when it comes to separation anxiety in dogs, you can confidently make a plan of action for your dog’s individual needs.

Our Separation Anxiety Course in the Pupford Academy is a great next step for parents looking to help improve their dogs’ issues being left home alone. This video-style course provides step-by-step guidance for improving your dog’s behavior when left alone, making being home alone a more enjoyable experience, and exercises that feel just like games to your dog!

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