We have had two wonderful Spinoni for several years now. They’re a big part of our family and we spend a lot of time with them. During the Covid crisis, I’ve been working from home much more than I normally would and the dogs are used to having me there. Once things settle down, I’ll be going back to the office and was wondering if our dogs would experience separation anxiety and what I should do about it.
So, I decided to do some research and found some useful information.
The Spinone Italiano is a dog breed that can experience separation anxiety. People-oriented breeds like the Spinoni may be more prone to separation anxiety than others. Spinoni love being with their owners and can have a hard time being away from them.
Dog separation anxiety is a fairly common condition, affecting dogs of all ages and breeds. However, there are some things about the Spinone Italiano that make them more prone to it than other breeds. Read on to learn more about it and what you can do about it.
What Is Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
Separation anxiety is a disorder that causes dogs to panic at the idea of being left home alone. The panic may be so overwhelming that when you leave, your dog becomes destructive, salivates, paces, barks incessantly, and/or demonstrates housebreaking issues.
What Are The Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs?
If your dog exhibits some of these behaviors when you’re not there, he is most likely suffering from separation anxiety:
- Excessive barking or howling
- Destructive acts, like chewing furniture, pillows, or clothing and frantic scratching on the doors or windows
- Indoor “accidents”–urinating or defecting in the house even though they are house trained
- Excessive salivation, drooling, or panting
- Intense pacing
- If crated, escape attempts so desperate, the dog may actually harm himself
These behaviors aren’t occasional; they happen every time you leave and only in your absence. In fact, they may begin even before you leave; when he sees you put on a coat or take out the car keys.
The behavioral symptoms can last for the entire length of time that you are away and can escalate as time goes on. The symptoms can also vary from dog to dog and from situation to situation.
For some dogs, the symptoms may be mild, and other dogs may have more severe symptoms.
What Causes Separation Anxiety in Spinoni?
While a great deal of research has been done on separation anxiety in dogs, it’s unclear what exactly causes it. Most likely, separation anxiety is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In the case of the Spinone Italiano, genetics definitely plays a part.
Often times, separation anxiety can be triggered by life changes like one or more of the following:
- Being left alone for the first time or when they are used to being with people
- Change of ownership
- Move to a new house
- Moving from a shelter to a home
- Change in family routine or schedule
- Sudden absence of a family member (divorce, death in the family, a child going off to college)
- Recent research has even pointed to a lack of daily exercise as a possible cause
Genetics can also play a role in separation anxiety. Domesticated dogs have been bred for years to live, work, and play in close proximity to humans. Some breeds, like Spinoni are more people-oriented than others, and being left alone for long periods can make them anxious.
Spinoni are known for being active, kind, and affectionate with their family. They are bred and used to hunt, point, and retrieve alongside their owners. It’s no surprise that they are used to being with their companion all day long. However, nowadays, many of us have to go to work or school and cannot always be with them. This can make your Spinone upset to the point of them having separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is not just a problem for the Spinone Italiano. Many other breeds suffer from it. Here are some other more common working and sporting breeds that are prone to separation anxiety.
- German Shephard Dog
- Australian Shepherd
- Labrador Retriever
- Border Collie
- Cocker Spaniel
Problems to Rule Out Before Determining if Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Some dogs may develop the behaviors mentioned above without developing separation anxiety. In fact, there are many behaviors associated with separation anxiety that are very common in well-adjusted dogs.
Talk to your vet to rule out any medical problems that might be the actual cause of the behavior. If your dog is taking any medications, ask your vet if they might be causing the problem.
Here are some other issues that could be impacting your dog’s behavior:
If your dog is house trained but is having accidents in the house, there may be a medical issue going on. Incontinence can be caused by medication, diabetes, kidney disease, a urinary tract infection, a weak sphincter, a hormonal imbalance, or other issues.
If your dog is a puppy, they may be chewing inappropriately because they are teething. Chewing and destruction due to separation anxiety will occur when you are away from home and will happen in conjunction with other behavioral issues. Teething will occur whether you’re home or not.
Sometimes boredom can be confused with separation anxiety. Dogs who are bored will often chew or destroy things when nobody is around. However, dogs who show that behavior because they are bored will not usually appear anxious when you are getting ready to leave or when you return.
Your dog may bark or howl because of distractions or noises outside of your home. If you have a very vocal dog, they will usually bark even when you are around. It isn’t a sign of separation anxiety unless they appear stressed when you leave.
How Do I Help My Dog With Their Separation Anxiety?
If your Spinone is experiencing separation anxiety, it is upsetting for both of you. Neither you nor your dog wants this situation to continue. It’s difficult seeing your best buddy under so much stress and just as difficult to come home to mayhem and destruction. While there’s no magic bullet, there are some things you can try:
In some cases, you may be able to relieve your dog’s anxiety but teaching him that separation from you has its rewards. He’s conditioned to go into stress mode when he knows you’re leaving him.
Try altering that reaction by giving him a special treat like a bone or toy stuffed with peanut butter or something else he loves. Eventually, he will associate getting a treat with you leaving.
If he has favorite toys, a bed or blanket, make sure they are all available to him. And, of course leave plenty of fresh water.
If your Spinone is a puppy, start conditioning him early by leaving him for short periods of time and gradually lengthening the amount of time you’re gone. Some dogs feel safer and more comfortable in their crate when left alone. See how he does in the crate to see if he settles right down right away or gets more anxious.
Both of our Spinoni preferred to be in the crate when they were alone.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. They need both physical and mental exercise to stay fit. If your dog has had a walk and some time to play with you, they will be more likely to be content and settle down when it’s time for you to leave.
Herbal & Homeopathic Treatments
Natural supplements and homeopathic treatments are another way to treat separation anxiety. Natural supplements that help ease anxiety in dogs include the amino acid L-theanine, chamomile, passionflower, St. John’s Wort and valerian. These basically function to alter neurotransmitters in the brain (such as serotonin, GABA, or dopamine) to induce a sense of peace and calm.
In severe cases, medication may be necessary. Sometimes, no amount of training and conditioning will help, especially with older dogs. Some vets may recommend a medication like amitriptyline (Elavil®), which is used to treat depression, or alprazolam (Xanax®), which is prescribed for anxiety and panic disorders.
Knowing that the Spinone is a breed that can suffer separation anxiety can help owners condition their dogs to prevent it and recognize the signs should an event occur in their dog’s life that could trigger it.
While separation anxiety can be exhausting for everyone involved, many remedies and tools are available to help your Spinone overcome the effects of it.
In moderate to severe cases of separation anxiety, you might have to try a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. It can be a complicated process, so consider working with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist or a veterinary behaviorist.
Separation anxiety isn’t always preventable, despite your best efforts. But with patience and care, you may be able to reduce your dog’s suffering and the destructive behaviors it causes.