The American pit bull terrier is a breed that bonds very closely with their human owners. While it's common to read about their temperament toward others, you don't usually read about how many pit bulls struggle with separation anxiety. In fact, separation anxiety is the number one reason why pit bulls are abandoned or sent to the shelter.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Chewing objects and furniture, howling for hours straight and urinating or defecating on the floor are common signs that your dog may have separation anxiety. Most of these signs are often blamed on the pit bull for being a "bad dog". The truth is, your pit bull isn't doing these things to spite you for leaving, he's actually distressed because you're away from his side. If your pup becomes extremely anxious or upset when you prepare to leave and overly excited when you arrive home, it's likely he's struggling with separation anxiety.
It can be hard to tell the difference between separation anxiety and your dog acting out due to boredom or curiosity. If he digs through the trash while you're gone or only chews on highly fragrant items like shoes or leather goods, then the problem is more likely boredom. If he barks at people walking by the house or loud noises, as opposed to a constant bark or howl, and doesn't show other signs of distress, he's probably not dealing with separation anxiety.
What to Do
Nearly every case of separation anxiety in pit bulls can be treated and improved with some effort on your part. Start by wearing your pit bull out with exercise before you leave the house. This will help him sleep and relax some or all of the time you're away. Leave the house for short amounts of time, such as five or ten minutes, at first. Slowly extend the amount of time you're away until you can leave for hours at a time without any problems. Leaving your pet with a bone or his favorite toy will also help him associate you leaving with something he loves.
What Not to Do
Whichever separation anxiety treatment approach you decide to take, do NOT punish your pit bull for destruction that occurs while you're away. Punishment only makes the problem worse. It causes him to panic more in anticipation of being punished when you return. If your pit bull chews or destroys objects in your house, don't point them out to him before you leave. This will cause him to focus on those objects when he gets upset instead of leaving them alone. It can be frustrating to deal with damage to your property, but keep in mind that nearly every case of separation anxiety in pit bulls can be treated.
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.