Havanese separation anxiety

helloBARK! staff
By helloBARK! staff
Updated on February 25, 2020
Fact Checked

Havanese are companion-sized dogs that are popular pets.

The national breed of Cuba, Havanese have been lap dogs throughout the centuries since arriving on the Caribbean Island with European explorers.

Havanese are friendly and loving dogs that like to be in the company of humans.

They’ve enjoyed a rise in popularity over the past couple of decades.

The American Kennel Club are the 24th most popular breed in the United States.

However, some members of the breed do suffer from separation anxiety, just like many other dogs.

In this article, we’ll take a look at dog separation anxiety and whether Havanese dogs suffer from this chronic canine disorder.

We’ll break the article into the following sections:

What is dog separation anxiety?

Bichon Frise lying down on the floor of her home, alone, waiting for her owner (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Bichon Frise lying down on the floor of her home, alone, waiting for her owner (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Separation anxiety is a chronic canine disorder. It occurs whenever the pet owner leaves their dog at home alone. In some cases, it can even start before they’ve left as the dog notes signs that their owner is about to depart.

Here’s how dog separation anxiety expert Malena DeMartini defines the condition to pet parents:

When I talk to a dog owner who has a separation anxiety dog, the biggest message I initially want to get across is that this is a fear, phobia, panic about being left alone. It might seem completely irrational to you because you’re like ‘I always come back’ but fears and phobias are often irrational.

Research cites by the RSPCA in the UK suggests that 8 out of 10 dogs can suffer from separation anxiety to some degree. Crucially, almost half of the dogs that display separation anxiety won’t show signs of the canine disorder.

Before we look at this potential headache, let’s take a look at the common behavioral signs that your dog is struggling with separation anxiety when left at home alone.

Dog separation anxiety symptoms

If you own a dog, there’s a good chance you may have encountered separation anxiety to some degree. If you haven’t, you’ll almost certainly know someone who has.

Dog separation anxiety can manifest itself in a number of different ways, varying from dog to dog. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms that you should look out for:

• Persistent barking, howling or screaming – If you’re dog doesn’t stop barking, crying, howling or screaming when you leave your home, this is an indication of separation anxiety. This can be a particularly challenging symptom for dog owners who live in apartments or homes with neighbours close by. The various types of vocalisation can lead to complaints about the noise.

• Destructive behavior – Another sign that your dog is struggling with separation anxiety is destructive chewing or digging in your home. For example, when I leave my Alaskan Klee Kai in their crate, they’ll pull clothing into the crate and chew it into shreds when left alone. Other common destructive behaviour includes scratching the door (particularly the one where you left the house from) or digging at furniture, carpets or potted plants. If you’re renting, this could be a big problem.

• Urinating and defecating – In extreme cases, potty training could go out the window as you’re dog struggles in a distressed state. This can lead to urinating in the home or even defecating inside.

• Pacing or trembling – Some signs of separation anxiety can be even more subtle. If you notice your dog is pacing around the home or trembling in their crate, this could be a signal that they’re suffering with the canine disorder.

• Silent sufferer – Often overlooked, your dog could still be struggling with separation anxiety even if they’re not showing obvious signs. It can be easily missed.

Malena DeMartini explained to hellobark.com how dog owners can ascertain whether their dog is struggling with separation anxiety if they’re not showing some of the more obvious signs such as destructive behaviour or loud vocalisation.

A dog may snuggle on the couch, it might go for a drink of water, it may chew on a toy. This is what the dog typically looks like. We can then do a video assessment when the dog is alone. We’ll compare those videos side by side. The body language that we see during alone time comparative to the baseline body language is one way to discern if this dog is simply experiencing frustration or boredom versus a dog who is experiencing distress.

Havanese separation anxiety

Havanese enjoying some play time (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese enjoying some play time (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese are considered a companion dog given their small size.

They make perfect pets for apartments and city dwellers because they don’t take up a lot of room, they don’t shed and they don’t require a lot of exercise.

Described as lap dogs, the Havanese breed are accustomed to human company. They like human interaction as social dogs. With this in mind, some Havanese dogs may not do well in periods of separation.

The natural question that springs to mind is how do we prevent dog separation anxiety? Well Malena DeMartini explains that it isn’t quite as simple as prevention.

You can do everything right from the start and there is still the potential that separation anxiety pops out. It is definitely worthwhile doing everything right nevertheless because you’re a couple of steps ahead if separation anxiety does occur. Please be very careful about saying ‘here’s a separation anxiety prevention programme’ as that is technically inaccurate. We cannot prevent something which we don’t have a succinctly defined cause for.

While there’s no guarantee that a Havanese puppy will grow up with or without separation anxiety, it’s something to consider before you decide on this breed.

If you have a demanding job that means you’ll be out of the home more than three or four hours a day, you may not be in the right position to adopt a dog.

Alternatively, you may want to hire the services of a dog walker or a dog sitter to give your canine companion some company during the day.

How to tackle separation anxiety

Destructive chewing can be a symptom of separation anxiety (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Destructive chewing can be a symptom of separation anxiety (Photo: Adobe Stock)

There are a number of different thought processes when it comes to tackling dog separation anxiety. Some dog trainers will suggest a variety of different tools to help sooth your dog’s separation anxiety. These include:

• Exercise – As the saying goes, a tired dog is a happy dog. Some trainers suggest taking your dog for a long jog or walk before you leave your dog at home alone.

• Calm departure – If you’re leaving your home, it’s recommended that you do so in a calm manner so as not to stress out your dog more. They say to avoid making a big fuss of your canine companion before you leave.

• Background noise – A classic tip when it comes to leaving dogs who get anxious alone is putting on some background noise, whether it be the radio or the television. In doing so, it could muffle any sounds that trigger their anxiety.

• Essentials oils – Some dog owners attest to the use of aromatherapy to relax their pets. Using essential oils and a diffuser, the scent can help to relax a stressed out dog in some circumstances.

• Dog camera- There’s no shortage of dog cameras that allow you to keep an eye on your dog. Not only can you check in on your canine, but you can hear them, speak to them and in some cases throw them a treat. Of course, there’s no guarantee that hearing your voice will soothe your dog. In some instances, it could make it worse. However, we believe they’re valuable tools for dog separation anxiety training. You can see how your dog reacts when alone. Here is a selection of the best dog cameras available on the market at the moment.

While these tools can do no harm to your Havanese’s separation anxiety, the best course of action is to hire the services of a dog separation anxiety expert.

Malena DeMartini: Preventing separation anxiety

In an attempt to learn more about separation anxiety, we spoke to expert DeMartini to understand the condition and how she tackles the issue. Here’s what she says:

Maybe you can’t! I’m very sensitive about the word ‘preventing’ when it comes to separation anxiety. I would encourage people to use the phrase ‘optimizing their dog’s chances of alone time success’ rather than preventing separation anxiety.

Anything else to consider?

If you’re thinking about getting a Havanese and you’re still concerned about the potential issue of dog separation anxiety, you can always speak to Havanese owners on Instagram. They can shed light on their experience with the breed.

In our experience, owners are usually forthcoming with information about their pets in order to help other dog lovers. After all, there’s no better person to shed light on a breed’s temperament that a current or past owner.

You can find 20 Havanese to follow on Instagram here.

Do you suspect your dog is struggling with separation anxiety? Malena is offering helloBARK! readers the chance to avail of a special discount code for her online self-paced course for dog owners. For more information, contact [email protected]

In conclusion – our final thoughts

Pablo the Havanese (Photo: @havaneser_pablo / Instagram)

Pablo the Havanese (Photo: @havaneser_pablo / Instagram)

We’ve reached the end of our article on Havanese and separation anxiety.

It’s unfair to stereotype the breed as being susceptible to separation anxiety. However, there are a number of testimonials from Havanese owners about this chronic canine disorder being an issue.

Seeing as these dogs have been bred to be companion canines, they like to be around their dog parents as much as possible. If you’re going to be away from home for long periods of the day, they may not be a suitable breed for you.