Not much can beat the feeling of taking a new puppy home for the first time. Introducing him or her to your other pets and growing your pack, one pup at a time, can be extremely satisfying.
But getting calls from furious neighbors, complaining that your dog barks for hours on end when you leave, or coming home to a destroyed house might make you question whether the pack needs to grow any further…
These challenges are often misunderstood, and Pitbulls end up at the shelter, labeled as problem dogs.
The fact is it’s not just us humans that have to deal with anxiety. Our dogs aren’t immune to it. So if we can identify anxiety in humans and treat the symptoms, shouldn’t we do the same for our four-legged friends? After all, they’re extended family members.
Let’s look closer at separation anxiety in dogs and what you should do about it.
What is Separation Anxiety?
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Separation anxiety can best be described as the constant fear of being separated from a loved one.
You’ve seen it before - a toddler clings to his dad's arm in the morning as his dad leaves for work. Tears roll down the little guy's face as he begs his dad to stay home for the day.
Children often struggle with separation anxiety, but thankfully they outgrow this phase as they learn to understand that their dad will return every evening.
Dogs get separation anxiety too. But unlike a toddler who can express himself as soon as he learns to talk, dogs can’t communicate their thoughts and feelings.
So, if there’s just the slightest of chances that they can escape home or the backyard (to go searching for their caregiver), they’ll take it.
This often leads to physical harm as Pitbulls will jump through open windows and run through traffic without hesitating.
Why Do Pitbulls get Separation Anxiety?
Pitbulls have long been known as extremely loving and loyal to their owners. When they make a friend, it’s for life.
They love spending days lounging around the house with mom or dad, so much so that they can sometimes feel a real sense of anxiety when you’re not around.
Don’t view this as having a bad dog. PitBulls are great family pets and, like most dogs, will show undeserved love to their owners through thick and thin.
Just be on the lookout for some of the following symptoms of Separation anxiety and deal with the matter.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
If you’re wondering whether or not your dog’s anxiety is getting the better of him while you’re away, you need to be on the lookout for telltale signs that there’s indeed a problem.
Of course, these things are never straightforward, and what goes for one dog doesn’t necessarily ring true for the next.
However, many dogs developing separation anxiety display similar symptoms. Here are just a few that you need to keep on the lookout for:
Barking and Howling
You might be utterly oblivious to this first symptom. After all, your dog is an angel when you’re at home.
But the moment you leave home, they bark and howl to the point that the neighbors are contemplating the meaning of life. If you hear of such reports, it could be that your PitBull is trying to voice his concern and call out for you when you’re away.
Bored dogs often stand at the gate, howling at anything that moves.
Chewing, Digging, and Destruction
Coming home to a destroyed living room or bedroom is never good.
When dogs are bored or lonely, they need to vent their frustration on something. And that object is often whatever they find.
Nope, not even the most expensive leather sofa will be spared if a Pitty says enough is enough.
If you have a dog that lives outside, you might also notice them digging up the garden. This isn’t a regular digging session when they play with other dogs or like they’ll do during training sessions.
Problematic digging would include digging up garden sprinklers and plumbing and removing the ms’s flower bed.
Owning a little Houdini is only cute and tolerable for so long.
If your dog makes it a habit to escape his enclosure, the backyard, or even the house each time you leave, you might have a case of separation anxiety on your hands.
Dogs tend to become fond of their home, going so far as protecting it with their lives if need be. So escaping from their place of safety is a sure sign of a problem.
3 Ways you can help your Pitbull get over the Anxiety
You’ve seen the signs, and everything confirms that your poor pup suffers from separation anxiety.
What can you do to help him cope? Here are a few suggestions on how to treat separation anxiety.
The American Pitbull Terrier is an athletic breed. They take naturally to running, jumping, chasing, and pulling on objects. There’s a real danger that all their energy gets pent up inside of them and eventually bubbles over when you’re not around.
Physical training works wonders for both humans and dogs. Here’s what one medical journal had to say:
“In humans, exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which reduce stress levels and boost a good mood. Physical activity can therefore help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depressed moods as well as improve self-esteem. The same is actually true for dogs as well. Physical exercise can help improve a dog’s mood. Plus, dogs are generally social animals and enjoy activities done with their owners.” (1)
So get a strong and durable leash, dust off those trainers you’ve been meaning to dig out of the cupboard, and take your dog for a walk.
Keeping a regular exercise routine will definitely help you stay fit and healthy and also help keep your dog’s anxiety at bay.
Add to the Pack
All dogs are born pack dogs, including Pitbull terriers.
True, they can learn to be happy by themselves, spending their days tugging on a rope or chewing on a toy without a care in the world.
But the fact is that they do much better when they have another dog around them. It gives them mental stimulation, helps them vent and disperse their excess energy, and helps them with their loneliness.
Ensure you thoroughly investigate the breed of your new dog to ensure it will be comfortable around a Pitbull. Smaller dogs will feel overwhelmed by your Pittie’s energy, while larger dogs might intimidate your Pitbull.
So try to get a dog that will complement your pack, not divide it. A Pitty of a similar age and size is a good start.
Introduce your new dog slowly, allowing them to get to know one another before you leave them alone for extended periods of time.
As they form a friendship, your dog’s separation anxiety will gradually wane as he replaces your presence with another trusted confidant.
Practicing leaving home will help with reducing anxiety in your dog. Take them to the front door, or just leave them in one room.
Exit and wait a few minutes. As soon as you enter the room, greet your pup with a friendly hug and a happy tone. Nothing says you’re happy to see them again like a good dog!
As you gradually extend the period between exiting the room and returning, your dog will start to realize that you’re bound to return - and you’ll be in a good mood!
You could even use treats each time you enter the room without him misbehaving.
The goal here is to get your Pitbull to long for your return, not because he fears you not coming back every time you leave, but because he wants to receive that commendation or treat when he sees you again.
What Not To Do if Your Dog Suffers From Anxiety
Sometimes dogs suffer from separation anxiety from a very young age. That’s because they’re often exposed to the world without a pack leader to offer emotional support when things get scary.
Don’t underestimate the effect that loud noises, howling dogs, and other the presence of other animals can have on a Pitbull puppy.
Here are a few things to avoid if your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety:
Ignore the issue
The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem. The fact is that anxiety breeds more anxiety.
You should never think that your dog acting up is part of their nature. With proper training and some patience, you can beat this all-consuming disorder.
Expose them to loud noise.
Do you live close to factories, an airport, a main road, or a railway? If so, noise from these places often drives dogs crazy. Why is that?
Well, here’s what one expert at the American Kennel Club had to say:
“The average adult human cannot hear sounds above 20,000 Hertz (Hz), although young children can hear higher. (Hertz is a measure of the frequency of a sound, and the higher the frequency, the higher pitched the sound.) Dogs, on the other hand, can hear sounds as high as 47,000 to 65,000 Hz. These are sounds far too high-pitched or us.’ (2)
We can do little to change the noise pollution coming from these sources. But we can control the environment that our dog finds itself in when we leave.
Make sure that your dog can get away from the noise when it all gets too much for him. Creating a stress-free environment where they can feel safe will lessen your pitbull’s separation anxiety.
This place of safety might be indoors, but it could also just be the safety of a crate. Consider getting your furry friend a crate big enough to move around in, sit up, and lie down when it wants. With a little bit of crate training, even the most severe cases can be dealt with successfully.
Scold and Punish
Scolding and punishing a dog that acts up can have negative consequences for the dog and the owner.
Firstly, dogs do not understand punishment in the same way humans do and can often become confused or fearful. This can damage the dog's and the owner's bond, making future training efforts more difficult.
Additionally, punishment can sometimes exacerbate the behavior that the owner is trying to correct, as the dog may become more anxious or defensive. Positive reinforcement and consistent training sessions are generally more effective and humane ways to encourage good dog behavior.
A Final Thought
In conclusion, separation anxiety is a common and distressing problem for many dogs and their owners.
True, the symptoms can be challenging to manage, but there are several steps that owners can take to help their dogs feel more comfortable and secure when they are left alone.
By gradually desensitizing the dog to being alone, providing plenty of physical and mental stimulation, and seeking professional help if needed, owners can help their dogs overcome separation anxiety and enjoy a happier, healthier life.