Why does it happen?

Why does it happen?

There are various reasons why dogs develop home alone issues. We often think that we have caused it by the way we treat our dogs. Maybe that’s because we’re constantly being told “you spoil him with so much attention! No wonder he has separation anxiety.” 

Can I cause it by spoiling my puppy? 

You’ll be relieved to know that you can’t spoil your puppy into a panic disorder.  

Dogs can develop abandonment anxiety at any age; from 6 weeks of age, all the way up to geriatric onset. Sometimes the anxiety has brewed over time and other times it is more of a sudden change in behaviour – seemingly overnight. 

Maybe she’s born with it…

Genetics are fascinating but not always convenient. Studies are showing that fear, anxiety, and phobias can be passed down through DNA and are not necessarily “learned”.

What does this mean? If your puppy’s mother or father (or grandparent or great grandparent, etc) was an anxious dog, then chances are, your dog will also be anxious. It does not mean that you cannot resolve this, but it does mean that you may have a long road ahead of you, so get started the moment you catch a glimpse of home-alone issues. 

Environment plays an equally important role here! 

How many times we have worked with a brand new puppy who can’t be left alone at all at the age of 8 or 9 weeks. Almost every time, we can trace that back to the breeder not having spent a few weeks separating the pups from their mother and from each other for short periods of time, ensuring that by 7-8 weeks of age they are sleeping in their own crates and are comfortable being left alone for a couple hours at a time. 

Trauma, illness, and injury – any and all of these can cause a dog to become anxious when separated or isolated. This is quite common. It seems like a dog (much like a child after a trauma or illness/injury) is afraid to be left alone perhaps because they fear experiencing the same trauma, discomfort, or pain again without us there to comfort.

Many of our clients contact us after they have just moved or had a major change happen in their lives, for example – a birth, a death, someone moving in or out, working from home after working away from home previously (or vice versa). Dogs thrive on predictability and when their world changes suddenly, they can easily become anxious. Some dogs are more resilient than others, just like people!

One event that we know is a common cause of anxiety in dogs is a flight in cargo. Many dogs who are flown in cargo come home with a brand new set of noise sensitivities or phobias, and some isolation distress. We generally suggest avoiding flying dogs in cargo, especially during the 8-16 week period. 

It’s not your fault, nor will it likely ever be.