separation anxiety dog

How to Sort out When Your Roommate’s Dog Gets Anxious on Its Own

separation anxiety dog

Flickr, David Prasad, Here’s your new puppy! 7 weeks old

If your roommate’s dog behaves badly when you go out and leave it alone, this could be a protest because it is feeling lonely. Dogs are social creatures just like us. It’s more than just the food and shelter they want; they want to be our family too.

So if it gets behaves strangely when you leave it alone, it’s possibly saying it is stressed and anxious. The puppy in the photo above has just been taken from its mother to a new home. Can you see how worried it is?

The main things are:

  1. Give the dog time to adapt to it’s new environment
  2. Give it attention, love and treats.
  3. Have quality time with the dog such as by taking it for walks, so it feels loved and appreciated. 
  4. Watch out for the signs of depression which may need professional help
  5. It’s very common and doesn’t go away by itself

For full details of what to do and how to do it, please read on.

Three Simple Steps to Help a Dog Manage Their Separation Anxiety

1. Don’t Stress the Dog More, Start with Simple Baby Steps

  • You may have been doing the wrong thing by expecting your roommate’s dog to adapt immediately to being alone for a long time. Possibly your friend stayed with his family or in a commune where the dog was never really on its own before.
  • What you could have done instead was give the dog loads of love and only leave him at home for short periods initially. You could have gradually stretched the periods but that appears to be too late now.

That just means may take you a bit longer to correct the situation. But please don’t give up on the dog, as you condition it to behave differently.

lonely dog

Flickr, patchattack

  • Conditioning is a process where you reward good behavior by giving a gift that reinforces it. So if you are at home and the dog is happy and relaxed you can give him a tasty little treat so he knows everything is cool.
  • Before you leave the dog alone again, try hiding a few more treats that will take him time to find. But please only small ones otherwise the dog will become overweight.
  • Give the animal lots of focused attention before you leave, and a small biscuit as you go so he knows you really love him. He’ll always miss you of course.
  • However his separation anxiety levels will gradually come down when he understands he is not in trouble anymore.

Good things take time to achieve. You may have another week of poops and torn pillows. When you come back home the dog will still be missing you. He always will.

So give him loads more love because negative conditioning like shouting and spanking does not work, and besides the dog is just doing what comes naturally.

2. Share Quality Time With the Dog; Take Long Walks

beagle dog

Flickr, Stuart Pivack, Beagle dog

A dog wants to be part of his tribe and be loved and appreciated. There is more to this than arriving home, putting food out and watching television. You’ll never solve a dog’s separation anxiety that way. This is one way that will help.

If we study wild dogs in nature we realize their bodies are design to hunt down prey with bursts of speed. However, this does not necessarily mean you should take pooch jogging with you.

  • Dogs don’t have comfy running shoes to protect their feet from hard pavements
  • Some breeds (boxers, mastiffs, bulldogs etc.) can’t breathe properly while exercising because their noses are flat
  • Other breeds like huskies and collies have long coats so for them it’s like jogging in an overcoat

You also might not particularly like jogging either. If that’s not your scene or your pet is unsuitable take them for a walk in the park instead. Purchase an extendable lead so they can read the daily news without the risk of them running into the street.

  • Do praise your dog and give them intermittent treats so they know they are doing what you want and making you happy.
  • The best way to break the chains of separation anxiety is to assure you pet you love them, and they will live for you forever.
  • However there may come a time when you realize your dog is still restless and unhappy.
  • If your dog seems depressed then it’s possible his separation anxiety has become deep-seated and requires treatment.

Your roommate’s dog may be having attacks of separation anxiety too. On the other hand, it may simply be out of control. Let’s find out real cause of the misbehavior and what your roommate could do to improve it.

3. Watch for If Your Roommate’s Dog’s Separation Anxiety Becomes Depression?

depressed dog

Your dog may have moved on from separation anxiety to being depressed if one or more of the following are true:

  • It sticks to itself, lies in the same place all the time, doesn’t greet you
  • It ignores your instructions, is not interested in food or playing games
  • It just seems to have lost interest in life; the spark has gone out of it

I don’t recommend feeding dogs with chemicals because I believe in alternative medicine. I am also not qualified to prescribe how to reach out to a depressed dog with medication.

depressed dog needs help

Flickr, EPMLE, Depressed Dog

  • The American Kennel Club suggests trying natural remedies like amino acid l-theanine, chamomile, passionflower, saint john’s wort, or valerian to induce a sense of calm. However, do check with your provider first.
  • If this does not help, you could ask your veterinarian to assist. Pubmed suggests some human treatments may work; I humbly suggest the best cure-all is love.

Do you remember how your mum could make everything feel better with a kiss? Simple things in life may work faster.

Love, kindness, and regular attention are often the best cures for a roommate’s dog with separation anxiety and most other things.

I’ll sign off for now. I hope this article answers all your questions, and that you have a richer life with all your pets.

happy dog

Flickr, Fyre Mael, Happy Dog

4. Let’s Talk About How to Spot a Dog with Separation Anxiety

The first piece of the puzzle is how to spot a dog that gets worried when it is on its own. These are the main signs you should watch for:

  • Howling and barking as if to call you back
  • Chewing things to bits to burn off its frustration
  • Pooing to mark its territory because it is all along
  • Drooling and panting because it’s terrified

You have to stop this happening if the dog is behaving like that. You could confront your roommate directly, but how do you know you are not causing the problem? Perhaps you are unsetting the dog?

The psychology of dogs is a good place to start. Dogs have feelings and emotions and habits just like humans. However, at the same time they are also animals without our upper levels of thinking.

It helps if we understand how we ended up having dogs as pets and the nature of the relationship. There’s a valuable clue in the social instructs of wolves because they work as a team, and their genes are similar to domestic dogs.

lonely dog

Flickr, Eneas De Troya, Cascia

5. More Dogs Have Separation Anxiety That You May Ever Believe

Canine separation fear is commoner than you may imagine. In fact it is such a regular event the US National Library of Medicine – no kidding – has a whole chapter on it too.

  • They published a report that canine separation-related problems are pretty common. Around 15% of dogs veterinarians examined ‘vocalize, destroy property, and poo when they are alone’.
  • Moreover – and here’s the really interesting part – their researcher discovered up to 60% of dogs have the problem at some point in their lives.
  • They ran the numbers and concluded 35 million dogs in the U.S. have a tendency towards being anxious when they are alone. We are beginning to get closer to understanding the problem. The anxiety is a natural thing!

There are no bad dogs. Their behavior is simply what dogs do. We need to understand what dogs are thinking. One of their most important thoughts is they want to be part of our family and belong.

Shouting at your roommate’s dog when it poos in the room and rips up the pillows is the wrong thing to do because you are driving it into a corner. You are making things worse every time because it thinks you are rejecting it.

6. Separation Anxiety is a Dog Thing That Won’t Go Away on Its Own

Any social animal is going to feel out of sorts when it is on its own.  If we want a dog, we have to understand it thrives on company.

  • Humans have similar feelings and emotions. We can’t really live on our own either, and we feel blue when we are away from our friends. Perhaps it’s time you sat down with your roommate and had a discussion from the point of view of the dog.
  • We can take an animal out of the wild and we can domesticate it. However, we can’t take the wild out of the animal. Separation anxiety is what dogs do.
  • They worship us and they will put their lives on the line for us. However your roommate’s dog can’t stop being a dog. You have to understand it and approach it on that level.

Do you agree this is kinda like the treatment we expect for ourselves too? I’ll tell you shortly what to do next. However first I want explain the corner piece of the puzzle so you have the whole picture.

7. Crating is Not the Right Solution for Anxious Dogs

There’s loads of stuff on forums about calming dogs left alone in crates. These writers are missing the point, because in this case the animal is stressed about being locked up as well as being left alone.

Wolf packs, African wild dogs, and happy domestic dogs love to be free to run when they want. This is in their nature and we know you can’t take nature out of the dog. Leaving your pet in a cage while you get on with your life is simply not fair.

Not everybody’s circumstances suit keeping an animal at home. We need to face up to this fact because animals have their rights too. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA have this to say on the subject:

“No matter what a pet shop owner or dog trainer might say, a crate is just a cage, and putting dogs in crates is just a way to ignore and warehouse them until the guardian finally gets around to making time for them.

Crating is popular because it is convenient. But this inappropriate practice deprives dogs of the opportunity to engage in some of the most basic activities, such as walking around, stretching out to relax, and looking out a window.”

If you love animals and this is happening to your roommate’s dog, then perhaps it’s time to convince them that crating the dog is the wrong way to go about loving and caring for them. Then you can explain the animal is just doing what dogs do and follow the advice we provide below.

8. Why Wolves, People, and Dogs Get Separation Anxiety

grey wolves wanting to escape

Flickr, DaRonnie Macdonald, Grey wolves

Wolves initially chose humans as companions because they found us a convenient source of food. However, this does not necessarily mean they regarded us as prey.

There’s archeological evidence our ancestors threw their leftover food out the mouth of their caves and wolves decided we were their favorite takeout They were also handy to have around because they howled a warning when dangerous animals were prowling about.

At some time in the past – we don’t know when, but we can guess – a wolf lay down at the mouth of a cave and allowed a small child to come by and stroke it. This was the beginning of the evolution of the dog, and the remarkable human-animal bond we still share.

It’s still a comfy arrangement, especially for them. Dive into the food bowl, bark occasionally and you have it made. Therefore it’s no surprise your roommate’s dog has separation anxiety every time it thinks you walked away from the deal.

9. Useful Examples from the Bonding Instincts of African Wild Dogs

african wild dogs

Flickr, Ted African Wild Dog

Humans and dogs get on well because we have similar social patterns. Kids get separation anxiety their first night at boarding school. It’s horrid being away from someone special we love, but wonderful when we can be back together again.

African wild dogs hunt in packs, and they are extremely territorial. The members spend hours every day greeting and playing together. Their genes entered the dog species when Egyptian rulers adopted wild animals as pets ages ago.

  • If a member of a wild-dog pack steps out of line the alpha female and male chase it away, now that dog has no chance of surviving on its own through the first night. A lion will grab it for its supper or hyenas will eat it for breakfast.

Your roommate’s dog displays separation anxiety when it is on its own. That’s because dogs depend on us for food and shelter and love. They have powerful instincts roaming around in their heads;these are not logical thoughts.

They are responses to triggers that set them off. One of your biggest clues for resolving your roommate’s dog’s separation anxiety is their owner – your roommate – is the leader of their pack.

We may think of dogs like people and treat them that way. They will lap it up and come back for more because we are the leaders of their pack. All the while, deep down inside dogs are animals, and they approach us as animals too. That’s an important clue when dealing with their separation anxiety.

  • You see, they rely on us to give them the things they need, and they will protect us with their lives in return. Therefore having a dog – even your roommate’s – is an awesome responsibility. There are no bad dogs really, just owners who don’t understand what makes them tick.
  • Your roommate’s dog has separation anxiety when you leave it alone because it is worried its family has abandoned it, and that’s a pain a dog can’t even bear to think. So let’s move on and talk about smart ways to leave a dog alone, and hopefully find everything as we left it when we get back again.

10. Your Roommate’s Dog is Just Being a Dog

Perhaps you and your roommate are part of the problem and not just the dog? After all, you can adapt your behavior to circumstances, but you can’t alter your underlying nature. So why expect that from an animal?

Your pet is under tremendous stress, and your human relationship is suffering too. You can use simple steps above to improve the situation without stressing the dog even more.

Writer: Richard Farrell

richard ferrell writer

I shared a room as a fresher at university, and for a few years after I started working. Between the two I shared a bungalow with 23 other solders in the army, but that’s another story unsuitable for delicate ears!


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