Can humans have separation anxiety from their pets?
Dogs truly are hoo-man’s best friend, which is why dogs and humans can build bullet-proof bonds. The love and loyalty dogs share with their owners is like no other; the only downfall to this is when separation anxiety creeps in. Here’s an insight into what situations may trigger separation anxiety in dogs from their humans and of course when humans are separated from their dogs!
By Emily Roach, Paws in Work guest blogger.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is simply emotions and symptoms of anxiety occurring when separated from someone who you love and rely on. A common example of separation anxiety in humans, is present in children when they start going to nursery or school (or parents!). Separation anxiety is induced when the child is separated from their parents or someone else who they have a particularly close bond with. Separation anxiety can also arise in adults for a variety of reasons.
Symptoms of separation anxiety in humans include:
- Worry / concern
- Overthinking bad situations that can happen when being separated from a person/people
- Avoidance of scenarios that may involve separation (e.g., going to school or work)
- Physical symptoms of anxiety (headache, vomiting, shaking, over-breathing)
Separation anxiety in dogs.
We know that separation anxiety also occurs in dogs as they’re capable of building deep and emotional connections with their owners. Some dog breeds are more prone to separation anxiety such as: Labrador Retriever, Border Collie, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Jack Russell Terrier, German Shepherd and many more! These dogs are primarily bred to be social dogs, who rely on close contact with their owners.
Signs of separation anxiety in dogs include:
- Barking / crying/ howling
- Pacing back and forth
- Destructively chewing objects other than their toys
- Excessive drooling and yawning
- Going to the toilet in the house
A lot of companion and service dogs may have experienced a heightened sense of separation anxiety during the recent months. This is due to the shift of people being able to go back to their workplaces as the impact of the pandemic lessens. Dogs who have been taken to their new home during the pandemic would’ve known no different to having their owners at home 24/7. So when ‘normality’ starts to emerge, they may be left feeling unsettled and distressed at this change in routine.
There are, thankfully, solutions at hand for owners to implement on helping their four-legged family members with separation anxiety. A few simple techniques involve slowly phasing in returning to the office, gradually building up time of your pup or dog being left alone, taking them to day care or a trusted person, playing relaxing music if they’re home alone and making sure they are thoroughly exercised before leaving them on their own.
Scenarios where owners might feel separation anxiety.
This works both ways. Many people have become accustomed to working on an 100% remote basis and have had the company of their furbabies. This can be a particularly challenging time for people who only live with their dogs, as some are required to return to the office on a part-time, or even full-time basis. If your workplace is dog-friendly then it’s a win-win situation, but what about those who can’t bring their dogs to work with them or can’t afford doggy day care each week? This can certainly take some adjusting to and may even result to some people rethinking their current roles!
There are other situations beyond control where owners are forced to be separated from their dogs. For example, physical or mental illness may mean that people must take time out in hospital or at home alone to recover. This can have a mental impact on them when they need emotional support from their pup / dog.
Another situation which can induce separation anxiety in humans when separated from their dogs is going to university! Some young adults have grown up with their family pets, so having to move away can be isolating as it is. It’s very difficult if they’re in need of a snuggle on the sofa with their cuddly canine.
Overall it is very common and normal for hoomans to also feel just as anxious about leaving their furry friends as it is for the animal's too. Don't be hard on yourself and gradually build up to it. Follow our tips here to help both of you transition into more time apart.
Book puppy therapy with us.
If you’re in the position of going back to the office full-time or you’re off to university, don’t despair! We’re here to offer you a much-needed dose of puppy love whilst you’re away from home, through our puppy therapy. This enables you to have all the puppy cuddles you need, whilst being away from your loved ones. Not only will you feel a rush of endorphins, you’ll also be playing your part in socialising our adorable litters of puppies, setting them up for a bright and happy future ahead. We also encourage conversations about your worries or stresses during our puppy therapy sessions. This isn’t mandatory, but we just want you to know that we’re always here to listen and others may feel encouraged to speak up too!