When Monday morning rolls around, I don’t know what is worse, having to go back to work, or watching your dog begin to pace and follow you around the house. You know the routine, why do they have to make you feel so guilty, but, what if they can’t help it? With the crying and pacing, you must wonder, do Goldendoodles have separation anxiety?
In this article, we will address the meaning of separation anxiety, how you can identify it in your pet, ways to treat it, and hopefully, prevent it. After reading this, it is my hope you can help yourself as a pet owner, your pet, and your sanity when you “have” to be away.
Do Goldendoodles Have Separation Anxiety?
So, Do Goldendoodles have separation anxiety? Goldendoodles are prone to develop separation anxiety because they are affectionate and want to be with you at all times. However, just because a breed like the Goldendoodle is prone to separation anxiety, it does not mean every dog will develop the behavior.
Let’s dig into the details and I will explain everything you need to know about Goldendoodles, separation anxiety, and what to do about it!
Goldendoodles develop a strong attachment to members of their family due to their affectionate nature. Given their need to be close to you, your Goldendoodle can easily develop separation anxiety when you leave them alone. You know the dreaded routine, it is time for you to leave for work, the store, or wherever you need to go, and your dog’s radar goes off.
Your Goldendoodle is a mixture of a Poodle and Golden Retriever, it is only natural that your dog loves companionship and has an affectionate nature. These traits are the reasons for their destructive and dreaded behaviors to being left alone.
It is hard to leave your best friend at home, especially when you know they will be lonely. Obviously, you can’t quit your job to stay home with your fur baby to prevent this from happening, but there are things you can do to help them overcome their fears.
Some experts feel anxiety occurring with your pets is more a result of the “between times”, the expectation of the greeting they will receive when their family returns home. Our pets learn our routines, when we get up, when we feed them, when we leave for work, the time for us to return home.
Some veterinarians feel the cause of your pet’s anxiety or destructive behavior is more the “greeting” your pet will receive from you when you arrive home. Your dog has been in a quiet house all day, with few distractions, then you get home and that completely changes. We, by our high pitched, energetic greetings, can cause an emotional overload for our dogs.
The anticipated emotional greeting can be hard for some animals, unable to understand the sudden burst of energy we display, as soon as we open the door. Often when pet owners come home, they are excited to see their fur babies, however, in our rush to love on them we can create more confusion for our dogs.
You know the reaction, you have a special voice for these times, often high-pitched and you begin to talk silly to your pet or repeating their names while causing them to become more excited.
As a result, some pets may decide to hasten our return by “beginning” the burst of energy with your couch, or shoes, or other furnishings, that end up paying the price for the expectant energy burst. For your dog, in their world this only means you will be getting home sooner, rather than later, making the “attention” they receive worth it.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Separation Anxiety?
How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety? Separation anxiety can be a result of many different changes for your pup or dog. In order to know if your dog is exhibiting the signs, it is important to observe your dog’s behavior when you are at home, not just when you are away. When a pet is left alone, they become lonely, nervous, and depressed, often resulting in destructive behavior.
You have heard of the pet owner coming home to a couch and cushions destroyed, or the trash completely strewn across the house, walls scratched up, some even to the point of missing sheetrock or even dangerous attempts to escape? These destructive behaviors are often the result of separation anxiety, actions your dog will take when they are left alone, unable to handle the loneliness.
As a result of their breeding, Goldendoodles are dogs designed for companionship, they are not meant to be with families that are often away from home. These dogs view their family members as their pack, with that said, when the entire pack leaves for the day, your dog panics.
Separation anxiety is the most common specific anxiety in companion dogs. Being left alone will cause your dog to exhibit excessive distress behaviors resulting in less than pleasing results.
Your dog may exhibit some common anxiety symptoms including trembling, tail tucked, incessant howling, relieving himself in the house, withdrawal, and hiding.
You may witness your dog following you from room to room whenever your home, pacing, or displaying demonstrative frantic greeting behaviors, these are all common signs your dog could be suffering from anxiety.
Some dogs may even exhibit agitating, anxious or depressed behavior when they know their family member is preparing to leave. Some dogs, in desperation, will try to prevent their owner from leaving the house.
Most often, if the dog suffers from this disorder, he will immediately begin to bark and display other distress behaviors within a short period of time after being left alone- usually within minutes.
When this occurs, attempting to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety, is the best course of action to help your dog to cope with being home alone without fear and destruction.
What Can I Do About Dog Separation Anxiety?
Is there anything an owner can do to prevent or help alleviate their anxiety? The key is keeping your pet occupied while you are away, to ward off the terrible results of separation anxiety. Helping your dog by providing mental stimulation while you are away, can help alleviate anxiety in your absence. The key to success is being able to teach your dog to enjoy (or at least tolerate) being left alone.
Trying to understand the underlying reason for your pet’s anxiety will be a great step in the right direction. Although there is not any conclusive evidence to point to the reason for separation anxiety in dogs, there have been studies that have suggested situations that have triggered the development of separation anxiety.
Possible Causes Of Separation Anxiety:
- Change of guardian or family, dogs that have been surrendered to a shelter or given to a new owner.
- Drastic or abrupt changes regarding the length of time a dog is left alone (namely, if the pet had companionship during most of the day and the owner is now gone a great deal of the day).
- Moving to a new residence is particularly disturbing for pets. My little boy gets very anxious when he sees boxes in the house.
- Sudden change in members of the household (students that leave for college, a new job or a death in the family).
Tips For Dealing With Separation Anxiety:
If your dog is experiencing anxiety due to your expected reaction as mentioned above, there are some suggestions to help your dog’s behavior when you return home, to keep your house in order while you are away.
- Start a new homecoming routine by entering the house calmly instead of your high-pitched, excited voice.
- Avoid eye contact initially as you put your things down, don’t go to your dog initially, let them see that you are calm.
- Calmly take your pet outside to relieve themselves, this will be good for your dog and stop the excited accidents that occur when you first get home.
Once you have calmly entered your home and you dog sees you are not excited (after a few minutes) at this time you can let yourself get a little silly, letting them know you missed them once the normal hustle of the house has been established.
Can Separation Anxiety Be Treated?
Are there any treatments available for my dog with anxiety? When seeking a treatment for your dogs’ anxiety it is important to note the severity of the behavior. For dogs that suffer from Mild Separation Anxiety counterconditioning, a treatment that changes an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reason to a pleasant, relaxed one is highly recommended. This treatment involves teaching your dog to develop an association between being alone and good things.
When you leave you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that may take up to 20 to 30 minutes to finish (I think it is a good idea to observe your dog a few times with this new toy to ensure he doesn’t encounter any problems).
Keep in mind it is best, once introduced to your pet, to remove these toys as soon as you return, your dog should only have these fun toys when you are not at home.
If you are looking for great interactive and puzzle toys for your dog, check out our article, 17 Toys Goldendoodles Actually Love! (While you are there why don’t you get started on your Christmas shopping for your fur babies too).
Moderate to Severe Anxiety
If you feel your dog’s anxiety level falls more in the moderate to severe category, treatment may require a more complex desensitization and counterconditioning program.
For best results. it is highly recommended you take your time when introducing your pet to short separations ensuring anxiety is not being experienced. Over time you should be able to gradually increase the duration of the separation (usually weeks of daily sessions, a bit of work on your part, but well worth the effort).
This type of treatment requires the assistance of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. Your veterinarian would be the best source for your dog and the recommended treatment required for their condition. A brief overview of the program consists of the following:
Desensitization & Counterconditioning
- Step One: Predeparture Cues – Often your pet will pick up on your actions, putting on your coat, picking up your keys and/or purse, triggering your dog’s anxiety (referred to as “predeparture anxiety”). If this occurs, it is recommended that you let your dog know that this behavior does not always mean you are leaving them. You can work on this by performing these actions but not actually leaving the house. Put on your coat and sit and watch tv, pick up your purse and/or keys then sit down at the kitchen table. This will help reduce their anxiety as these cues no longer lead to your departure. After your dog refrains from getting anxious when they see you getting ready to leave, you can move to the next step.
- Step Two: Graduated Departures/Absences – These are planned, short departures, the focus should be an emphasis on the idea you are not gone longer than it takes for your dog to become upset. Start with out-of-sight stays inside your home (go into the bathroom or another room and close the door, reminding your dog to sit and stay), gradually increasing the length of time you wait on the other side of the door, out of your dog’s sight. You will gradually increase this process from the home to short absences through the exit door. You will be able to gradually increase the time as your dog becomes accustomed to your being out of their sight. It is important to remember to keep calm during these sessions whether you are coming or going, as this will set the emotional tone of response from your pet.
If you plan to have a successful result, you will need to spend a significant amount of time with this process, to ensure your dog becomes comfortable with your being away from them. This pre-departure process can take a few weeks if you follow the recommended daily sessions. This is a very scientific process requiring specially trained personnel to help you proceed in order to help your dog achieve success without causing undue emotional stress.
Some dog owners prefer to treat their dog’s anxiety with prescription medications, anti-anxiety medicine, but this should only be given on the advice of your veterinarian. Most dogs with severe separation anxiety require a combination of medication and behavior modification.
Before you tackle any treatments for your dog it is a good idea to ensure their behavior is not due to a medical condition that can cause incontinence, urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter (due to old age), hormone-related problems after spay surgery, bladder stones, diabetes, kidney disease, or other condition your vet can identify.
It is best if you refrain from scolding or punishing your dog for this behavior as these are distress responses. The reason for this behavior is because your pet is upset and trying to cope with a great deal of stress from being left alone.
Remember, your Goldendoodle will best respond to positive training methods with rewards and gentle coaching. Your dog’s behavior is never aimed at you, he is only destroying things due to his inability to control his anxiety.
Goldendoodles have an average to high energy level, requiring a moderate amount of work on your end to wear your pet out before you leave them. If your pet is exhausted when you leave, they are more likely to sleep a great deal of the time you are away from home. Providing puzzle toys, a favorite blanket or article of clothing with your smell, will comfort him while you are gone. Practicing leaving for short periods of time, multiple times per day, will help reassure your fur baby that you will always come back home.
When you take the time to help your pet overcome their fears and work on being able to spend time alone without destructive behavior, you are making life better for both of you.
Your pet cannot control their anxiety, but we can control how we help them learn to cope. Isn’t your best friend worth the effort? Besides, your dog isn’t just a pet, he is a member of your family, one that will steal your heart forever.