Coming home to chewed furniture, wet spots on the carpet and your American bulldog bouncing off the walls with energy can easily agitate you after a long day of work. Most people assume they've got a "bad dog" when they come home to things like this, but it's more likely that their dog is suffering from separation anxiety. In fact, separation anxiety is extremely common among American bulldogs and many other breeds.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is often confused with poor dog training by the owners. Dogs affected by anxiety often urinate or defecate in the house, chew on furniture or bark constantly while the owner is away. All of these actions occur because the dog is extremely stressed whenever the owner is gone. American bulldogs are social animals that run in packs in the wild, so being left home alone can cause them an excessive amount of stress and anxiety.
Knowing the Difference
It's important to know the difference between boredom and separation anxiety. If your dog is barking at noises he hears or people passing by outside, he's not barking because of anxiety. If your dog is chewing on items with strong smells like shoes or digging in the trash, his actions are a result of boredom and curiosity instead of anxiety. Observe what happened while you were gone every time you come back home to get a better idea of the source of your dog's actions.
What Causes It?
Your dog can be experiencing this extreme anxiety when you leave for a number of reasons. The passing of a member of the dog's human family or the passing of another family pet are common causes of separation anxiety. Your family moving to a new house or even things as small as a change in routine, such as you working a different shift at work, can confuse your dog and cause them to worry while you're away. If you adopted your dog, and he was previously abandoned, it's very likely that his misbehavior while you're out is a result of separation anxiety.
Treatment for Separation Anxiety
While there is no proclaimed "cure" for separation anxiety, a couple of actions on your part can ease your American bulldog's anxiety when you leave the house. Wear him out with exercise before you go, then leave him with a bowl of water and a bowl of food. This will let him sleep or relax for a chunk of the time you're gone. Another option is to reward him with a bone or a toy stuffed with treats every time you leave. These types of treats take a while for your dog to eat and cause him to associate you leaving the house with a good thing like his favorite treat.
Courtney McCaffrey graduated from the College of Charleston in 2008 with a B.A. in media studies. She has served as an editor for Blooming Twig Books and the MADA Writing Services publishing company. She is now a writer on various outdoor sports such as snowboarding, skiing, surfing and bodysurfing.