Dog Separation Anxiety at Night

Dog separation anxiety is an uncomfortable disorder for both the dog and pet owner. Especially when your dog shows separation anxiety when you are simply trying to go to sleep. Of course, you love your pooch and want to be around him. However, a good night’s sleep (Comfy dog beds here) is just as essential for both you and your pup. Is Fido noisy at night and struggling to get into your bedroom? Keep reading to learn to recognize signs of dog separation anxiety at night and how to deal with it.

Social Pack Animals

The reason that your pooch is so loyal to you is that he is a social pack animal. Meaning, your four-legged partner needs you to be the leader and show him how to behave properly. A dog who hasn’t been taught how to behave when left alone can suffer from distress. Learn how you can prevent separation anxiety and also how to treat it.

Signs of Separation Anxiety at Night

If your pet displays behaviour of separation anxiety at night then, it is very likely he has the same behaviour when you are not home. You could set up a pet camera to monitor their behaviour when alone in the house.

When it is time to go to bed, watch out for the following behaviours in your dog.

  • Frantic scratching at your door
  • Continuous whimpering, howling, barking
  • Unsettled pacing
  • Bathroom accidents despite being potty trained
  • Excessive chewing and destruction
  • Excessive salivation, panting
  • Scratching face and biting the tail

If these symptoms are a nightly occurrence, this might indicate that your dog has separation anxiety. Consult your vet about these symptoms and what can be done about them.

Causes of Separation Anxiety at Night

As mentioned, dogs are pack animals that need companionship. However, they should also be confident enough to be alone at times.

The main cause for separation anxiety, is dog owners rewarding bad behaviour, whether on purpose or unknowingly. Hearing your dog whine in the other room or scratching at your door can be painful. However, by reacting to such behaviour, even to tell him off, you are rewarding bad behaviour with attention. This is called simulated separation anxiety. Show your pet that bad behaviour will not be rewarded and only give him attention when he remains calm after being left alone.

Then there are causes of separation anxiety at night that can still affect a well-trained dog. These causes are;

  • A new home
  • Loss of a pet friend
  • Lack of mental stimulation and exercise during the day
  • Changes in routine
  • Change of pet owners

Senior Dogs With Separation Anxiety at Night

For other dogs, separation anxiety is more related to the nighttime darkness than to be alone. This is especially common with senior dogs whose eyesight, hearing and other senses are deteriorating. The darkness combined with lesser functioning senses can make old-timers nervous and so seek out their pack leader (you) for comfort.

It is possible for dogs that were previously fine with being alone to display separation anxiety at night as they reach old age. If your furry friend is starting to get uncomfortable in darkness, you can install a doggy night light.

Dogs have better night vision than humans but their night vision might not be as strong as they get old. You can install a night light for your dog near his sleeping place. This will give him enough vision to identify his surroundings.

How to Treat Separation Anxiety At Night

The first step in treating separation anxiety at night is to stop giving your dog attention when he acts out. Your dog needs to know that you are still in control as the pack leader and that your dog is still safe, even when you are not around.

This may be the hardest step in separation training because you don’t want to see your dog in distress but it is absolutely vital. You can also prevent negative associations with your bedtime cues by changing your routines or normalising them. This way your dog will not get nervous even before being separated from you.

Separation training is best done gradually. If you have a puppy, this will be an easier process. Even dogs that are used to sleep in or next to your bed are also able to learn to sleep elsewhere though.

You can start by having your dog sleep next to your bed if Fido is now still sleeping in your bed. Then, have your dog sleep in the next room but with the door open. If he is comfortable with the knowledge that you are only sleeping next door, you can close the door at night.

When you get to this step it is important to not respond to any unwanted behaviour such as whimpering or scratching at the door. Continue moving your dog’s sleeping spot further away over time to get him to the desired distance.

These following training aids may ease the process for you and your dog.

  • Old clothes or blanket with your scent in his sleeping spot
  • Pheromone spray to imitate the scent of a mother dog
  • A crate or bed that feels like the dog’s own private comfortable space
  • Vet prescribed medicine

Remember, these options are merely tools and do not replace proper training.

Conclusion

It feels good knowing that your dog wants to stay by your side. However, we humans cannot stay in the house all day and every single day. There are times when Fido needs to be a good boy and entertain himself, even when you are simply in the other room. It is your job as a pet owner to make your dog comfortable with being alone. Don’t worry, a well-adjusted dog is perfectly capable of sleeping through the night.

When possible, start early with distance training to avoid struggling with night time separation anxiety later on. Hopefully, our tips will help you get to a good night’s sleep.

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