Dog Separation Anxiety At Night
You are getting ready to go to bed, and you notice your dog, Ralph, is getting agitated. Initially when he was a puppy he slept in your bedroom. There are many reasons puppy owners allow there new furry family member to sleep in their room at night. Perhaps:
- you may have felt this was a great way to bond with your puppy
- you needed some relief from the relentless whining associated with a acquiring a new pup
- for potty training or housebreaking reasons.
Now that he is older, there may be reasons why Ralph shouldn’t be or can’t be sleeping in your bedroom at night, some of these issues may be because:
- Ralph may be keeping you or another family member up at night
- allergies may have become an issue
- Ralph may be getting aggressive with you
- Ralph may have become over-protective of you with people
- Ralph may develop territorial aggression in your bedroom or on your bed
Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that he not sleep in your bedroom at night anymore. However, Ralp may not be so willing to accept this big change. For many dog owners, this short period of time that he has been allowed to put his head down in the same room as you, may have inadvertently encouraged a phenomenon known as Dog Separation Anxiety at Night. Below are some steps that you can take to help your dog with their anxiety.
So now he paces, shakes, maybe even spins around chasing his tail and whimpers at bedtime. When he does this you know that once again you’re probably in for a restless night. This is happening because, most likely, Ralph has dog separation anxiety at night (he knows the routine leading to bedtime and becomes anxious with each step closer to you separating with him to go to bed) which is why he’s so distressed. With him pacing and whining all night outside your bedroom door, your whole household may have to suffer once again from sleep deprivation. So, now what?
What is Dog Separation At Night?
For a dog or a puppy, being separated from people can cause the pet to have canine separation anxiety. Because dogs have such a loving and loyal nature, they’re very attached to their owners. But some dogs may develop an attachment which is unusually strong. When their people family return after being separated, these dogs will show an over-exuberant display of affection as if their family has been gone for days, not hours. This behavior can also exist at night while the pet owners are home and ready to go to bed. This dog separation at night is not prevelant in most cases of separation anxiety, but it does exist and can pose just as much of a challenge to a working family. Sleeping with your puppy can sometimes bring upon this type of separation anxiety. This is why many dog trainers recommend you not to sleep with your puppy.
So as night approaches if your dog starts doing any of these antics, then he may like Ralph be suffering from dog night separation anxiety: He’ll show this by:
- Trying to get into your room by pawing and scratching at doors
- He may even scratch at windows when he goes out at night to do his business
- Whining, panting or being very distressed vocally by howling.
- Pacing through the house endlessly.
- Urinating and defecating in random places
- Chewing on or biting items and getting into the trashcan.
- Scratching at his face with his claws or biting his tail.
A dog who has canine separation anxiety can’t stand being by themselves. This fear can either be created or triggered. It can be caused by:
- changes in a schedule
- moving to a new home
- losing someone that the pet loves
- losing another petmate that the dog was fond of
Dogs which have been abused, dogs bought in pet stores or shelter dogs can also be candidates for separation anxiety problems. Plus, sometimes when dogs get older, night separation anxiety may grow because of loss of hearing, sight and even because of cognitive dysfunction.
If your dog is over eight years old, The first thing you may want to consider is making a vet appointment to make sure that there isn’t anything physically wrong with him. Sometimes, then he may have cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This is like Alzheimer’s and dementia in people, and dog separation at night is one of the key symptoms. If your pet has this, then that could be what is causing the disturbed pacing, barking and wandering behavior. But if the vet gives Ralph a clean bill of health, then you will need to take other measures.
The first step is to stop reacting and giving Ralph comfort when he starts to fret. This only rewards his feelings of insecurity. You also need not to let him sleep in your bed because it can reinforce his anxiety instead of relieving it. For a well-adjusted dog, not sleeping in your bed wouldn’t be an issue, but with night separation anxiety in a dog, it is.
The next step is to start distance training. Many other dog trainers and dog behaviorists may recommend you begin with having your dog sleep in close proximity to you and gradually move them further away. Perhaps instead of your dog sleeping in your bed, have his bed on the floor of your bedroom then outside of an open door, then outside of a closed door and so on & so on. You want Ralph to feel less anxious, and the goal is to get the dog’s separation anxiety alleviated. So, they’d suggest every night, you move his bed a little further from where you’re sleeping so that he gets used to being more and more distant from you in where he sleeps. Dedicated Dog Training would NOT recommend this as a protocol for every case, as many other variables would need to be considered. Our separation anxiety workshop develops a tailored program for the family to move forward with.
Don’t make a big deal about going to bed either; just go to bed. You can also do practice runs with your dog when it is NOT bed time. Leave him in another room and then return varying the amount of time that you’re gone. You may have to continue to do this and leave for more extended periods until he stays and gets used to you not being there. Don’t overlook the bone or kong filled with Peanut Butter to help keep him busy as well.
With behavior modification, you may need to add drug therapy. This uses medication that’s prescribed for your pet by the vet. There’s a list of medications from which your vet may choose for your dog. Talk to your vet about the pros and cons of using drug therapy. If your vet does prescribe medication, just using it alone won’t usually cure night anxiety though, you will still need the behavior modification.
There are other options which you could use as well. Homeopathic aides can be bought over the counter that combat stress and also help with canine anxiety. Here, you can spray concentrated canine pheromones which mimic a mother dog’s calming scent in the area where Ralph sleeps.
Another option is to exercise Ralph to wear him out so that he falls asleep easier. By keeping Ralph engaged, busy and active during the day, he’ll sleep less in the daytime. This will help to adjust his nocturnal sleep cycle where he’s more tired at night. If he’s well-exercised, then his anxiousness may be mitigated nighttime antics, allowing everyone to maybe get better sleep at night.
You can work on behavior modification via changing your routine and patterns to assist in alleviating much of the build up to Ralph’s night separation anxiety. There are other measures to take or combine after conferring with the dog’s owner and observing the severity of dog separation anxiety at night. We hope that you can begin to implement some of these tips to improve your dog’s separation anxiety at night; however, if you need further help, we offer a Dog Separation Anxiety Workshop on Long Island, NY.
And please remember, the MOST important way to relieve or lessen the anxiety in Ralph is to be patient and not give up on him.