Can Dogs Become Too Attached to Us?

If your pooch gets all worked up when you're leaving, she may have separation anxiety.
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The people-pooch bond can be just as strong as person-to-person love. It's hard to say whether such a thing as becoming "too attached" exists; that's a debate for philosophers and psychologists. However, you may suspect your doggy has become too attached if she exhibits signs of separation anxiety.

Causes for Concern

So you think your doggy has become too attached to you? Then she's probably misbehaving when you prepare to leave and when you're not around. If your pooch engages in destructive or disruptive behaviors during these times, separation anxiety is probably to blame. Common signs include following you incessantly from room to room, greeting you over-enthusiastically when you return, panicking when you get ready to go out, howling and other unpleasant vocalizations, peeing and pooping inside, pacing or circling, chewing furniture and other items, scratching at doors or windows, knocking things over and otherwise trashing the place during your absence.

See the Vet

If the causes for concern occur when you're about to leave, while you're not home or when your dog is crated or isolated, it's a safe bet separation anxiety is the problem. Still, various health concerns can make your pooch act out. Your doggy may have a condition interfering with bladder or bowel control, for example, or she may be experiencing canine cognitive dysfunction, medication side effects or something else. Make an appointment to see your vet. Discuss the issue, get a pro's diagnosis and -- assuming it's separation anxiety -- develop a treatment plan for your four-legged friend's problem.

Is She Too Attached?

Nobody knows for sure what causes separation anxiety. It's an anxiety disorder and a psychological problem, just as it would be classified in humans. It's not that your pooch is too attached to you, it's not a lack of proper training and your dog isn't spitefully lashing out at you. Punishment, scolding, crating, obedience school, leaving the TV on while you're gone or getting another furry companion for your pooch won't help. Certain things can trigger the condition. Loss of a loved one, a new home or major environmental changes, newly being left alone more often or for longer times, significant schedule disruptions and other sources of stress or traumatic experiences may set off separation anxiety.

How to Help

Talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medicine, supplements and techniques to manage the situation while you address it. Spend more time with your doggy, especially right before going out; take her for a walk before leaving for an extended period. Desensitize her to your absence by going out for a few minutes, gradually increasing the time you're away. Provide toys for your pooch to play with while you're out and see that she's exercised and stimulated throughout the day. Eliminate the association between putting on your shoes and grabbing your keys and leaving by doing these things sometimes and then not leaving. Keep your hellos and goodbyes mellow, ignoring your dog until she calms down upon your return.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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