This is the magic question: Does your dog truly have separation anxiety or is your dog bored? It’s not easy to answer, but there are a few telltale signs that differentiate separation anxiety from boredom.
As a professional dog trainer, who works with separation anxiety in dogs as well as bored dogs daily, I’ll discuss: the major differences, a few solutions for boredom and when to seek professional help.
Boredom in Dogs
Most dogs and puppies are bored. They’re left home alone while their pet owners work all day. When dogs are bored, they will find something to do if mental enrichment is not provided. Bored dogs will bark incessantly, chew on or through everything, climb on counters to forage for food, and so forth. If potty trained dogs are not provided plenty of opportunities to use the restroom, they will potty indoors too.
Oh, bored dogs can destroy a house quickly. Restless dogs will pull down curtains, chew baseboards, scratch doors (if left alone in rooms), whine when pet owners leave, and destroy window blinds when barking at people and dogs. With bored dogs, anything can happen because they’re just trying to find something to do.
How do you prevent your dog from tearing up your house? Provide daily food stuffed food puzzles, such as Kongs, take him out for regular potty breaks via pet sitter and go on long walks before you leave for work.
RELATED: How to Find a Pet Sitter
Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Separation anxiety is completely different than boredom, and it’s much more difficult to address. Dogs with separation anxiety have a panic attack when left alone. Panic attacks are uncontrollable, severe and often self-destructive responses to being left alone.
Many dogs diagnosed with separation anxiety will paw their crate, doorway, windows or flooring until their paws are bloody. In certain dog separation anxiety cases, some dogs have pulled out their teeth or degloved their ears when trying to escape a crate or home.
Dogs with separation anxiety are inconsolable when they’re left alone, and they won’t lick Kongs or puzzles because they’re freaking out. It’s similar to having a panic disorder in people; these dogs are unable to control their response, and it only gets worse if not addressed quickly by a professional.
When to Seek Professional Help
Both situations require professional help, but separation anxiety needs to be addressed immediately. Never assume a dog has separation anxiety until a professional dog trainer or veterinary behaviorist diagnoses it. Usually self-mutilation is a telltale sign though.
So many pet owners assume their dogs have separation anxiety when they’re actually just bored. Enriching a bored dog’s life is easy. It takes a bit of preparation, but it’s worth it because no one enjoys coming home to a destroyed house.
Boredom in dogs is much more common than separation anxiety, but both should be addressed quickly.