Separation anxiety is a behavioral disorder that’s all too common in Chihuahuas. You finally get home from a long day at work only to discover that your beloved Chihuahua has ransacked the house. Maybe there’s pillow or bed stuffing strewn across the floor, garbage pulled out of the trash, or even a pile of poop in the middle of your living room. They don’t act like this when you or other members of your family are home, so why do they behave this way when they’re alone?
Chihuahuas suffering from separation anxiety act out when they’re left alone. Whether you are going to work for the day, or just running up to the gas station for a couple of minutes, leaving them alone triggers behavior that’s considered “out of the norm.” Your Chihuahua might be the perfect angel when they’re sitting in your lap, but all of their manners and training go right out the door once you leave their side.
Signs of Separation Anxiety In Chihuahuas
- Claws at the carpet when you shut the bathroom or bedroom door behind them
- Follows you around throughout the house
- Constantly jumps and whines for you to pick them up
- Tears up linens, pillows, sheets, clothes, etc. when left alone
- Defecates or urinates inside the house when left alone
- Acts overly excited when you come home
- Barks, whines, or howls when left alone
What Causes Separation Anxiety In Chihuahuas?
There are several different factors that may contribute to a Chihuahua’s separation anxiety, the most influential being a change in the family. Chihuahuas, like all dogs, are social animals that are highly loyal to their family. Taking them out of their current environment and thrusting them into a home with a completely new family is bound to create some type of emotional distress, including separation anxiety. This typically goes away once the Chihuahua settles down and becomes comfortable with their new family.
Abuse is another factor causing separation anxiety in Chihuahuas. If they were physically and/or mentally abused in their previous home, there’s a higher chance of them exhibiting behavioral disorders.
Note: punishing or disciplining your Chihuahua for exhibiting this behavior will only make the problem worse. Separation anxiety isn’t something they can control. Veterinary behavior specialist Dr. Stefanie Schwartz com suggests that canine separation anxiety is similar to panic attacks in humans. There’s a psychological element beyond their control that manifests this behavior. Yelling, scolding, or forcing your Chihuahua to go to ‘time out’ will only increase their anxiety.
Confining your Chihuahua to a crate also doesn’t work. Once you leave their sight, they’ll scratch, yell and possibly even soil their crate. This may help keep your house clean when you’re away, but it doesn’t help their anxiety — which is the real problem at hand.
How To Treat Your Chihuahua’s Separation Anxiety
Unfortunately, most owners take the wrong approach to their Chihuahua’s separation anxiety by punishment and/or confinement. In order for your Chihuahua to overcome this behavioral problem, you must work to downplay your exits and arrival. Rather than cuddling and pampering them before you walk out the door, go ahead and leave in a quiet, subtle manner without talking or making eye contact. This shows your Chihuahua that leaving, and returning, isn’t a big deal.
Owners should work to treat their Chihuahua’s separation anxiety slowly to prevent further psychological stress. Start by leaving the house for just 10 minutes a day, and gradually increase this duration over time. After being away from your Chihuahua for 10 minutes a day for a full week, perhaps you could bump it up to 20-30 minutes a day. Taking slow steps allows your Chihuahua to grow accustomed to these new changes, essentially dampening their separation anxiety.
For severe cases of separation anxiety in Chihuahuas, owners may want to discuss the pros and cons of various medications with their veterinarian. Benzodiazepines, oxidase inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants (TCA), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are some of the most commonly prescribed medications for canine separation anxiety. Of course, these are only temporary solutions and shouldn’t be used as a long-term treatment option.
Tips For Treating Separation Anxiety:
- Ignore your Chihuahua when you leave and enter the home
- Leave the television running to offer the company (DogTV or Animal Planet are both great choices)
- Make sure your they get plenty of exercise throughout the day
- Leave some toys behind to help occupy their time
- Teach your Chihuahua the basic obedience commands, such as sit.
- Confine your Chihuahua ‘loosely’ rather than using a crate
- Some veterinarians suggest giving a sock or some other piece of dirty laundry to your Chihuahua, as the scent of their odor may help calm them
You can’t expect your Chihuahua to overcome their separation anxiety immediately. Behavioral disorders are something that takes months, sometimes even years to develop, and treating them may take equally as long. Remain persistent and follow the tips listed here to help your Chihuahua overcome their disorder.