Did you know that separation anxiety is common not only among Westies but all dog breeds? Most Westies, because they’re so social, suffer from separation anxiety.
Sami is better this way and we’re lucky. He’s not that anxious but I also try my best not to leave him alone in the house. Still, sometimes you have to.
Hence, the question: can West Highland Terriers be left alone?
While my Sami exhibits signs of separation anxiety, it shouldn’t affect your decision to get a Westie because this is actually something you can deal with.
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What is Separation Anxiety and Do Westies Show Signs of It?
Separation anxiety in Westie is a condition in which a Westie becomes restlessness or exhibits signs of distress when they are away from their owner. If your dog is overly attached to you, it’ll be natural for them to become anxious. Depending on their reaction, they can be left alone up to several hours a day.
Now, some dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Australian Shepherds, display more signs of separation anxiety than other dog breeds.
Even though Westies don’t show several symptoms of separation anxiety, they still suffer from it. But, to a lesser degree than other dog breeds.
For instance, one of my friends has a Westie who suffered from severe separation anxiety issues. When she would leave, he would bark, cry, and pee on the couch where she sat. When she returned, he would not leave her side.
Now I must clarify that I didn’t face that problem with Sami, so the case may differ from Westie to Westie as well. But, with Sami, I researched the symptoms of separation anxiety beforehand so I could identify and see if he suffered from separation anxiety or not.
We also created a safe space for Sami by crate training him. Read our experience and review of the crate we use to get a better idea.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
Here is a list of symptoms of separation anxiety to look for:
1. Your Westie Becomes Rowdy
Your Westie probably suffers from separation anxiety if he tears couches, sheets, and/or blankets when you’re away. If your pet does this in places you spend most of your time, it’s a sign he can’t be away from you.
Sami didn’t display this behavior at all, though. Especially since he stays in a crate when he’s alone, we don’t let him go free in the house.
2. Your Westie Pants Frantically and Moves Restlessly
I witnessed this behavior in Sami. He used to pant frantically and move around the house restlessly when he knew that he wasn’t tagging along with me. If this behavior manifest excessively, I learned that he was displaying a sign of separation anxiety.
3. Your Westie Doesn’t Leave You Alone
When you are home, does your Westie follow you around everywhere? Sure, it’s cute at first, but it can soon turn into a nightmare if he starts barking excessively when you’re next to other people. Even if he doesn’t bark, the constant following you around isn’t healthy.
When we got Sami, he was next to me all the time. Now, frankly, he cares more about what our neighbors do, so he keeps a close eye from the balcony of our apartment all the time.
So you can identify the separation anxiety, but it’s useless if you don’t know what are the causes, so you can help you little Westie overcome it.
Causes of Separation Anxiety
First of all, remember your Westie is a highly energetic dog. If Sami’s really happy he sees us, I don’t take it as him having separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety can be due to several other external factors in Westies. Understanding these contributing factors can help you to train your Westie and bring about behavioral changes to ensure he does not develop separation anxiety:
1. Your Westie Isn’t Very Social
One of the main reasons why Sami didn’t show signs of severe separation anxiety is because he’s almost always with me. Most of the time, I’m just his humble servant. You can see it from the millions of pictures of him that I post on his Instagram account (which you should follow, by the way, because we post a lot there).
If I’d stop carrying and taking him around with me, separation anxiety might set in. If you take your Westie everywhere you go, don’t stop all of a sudden and don’t leave him alone for a long time.
2. You Overpamper Your Westie
Yes, Sami is my little prince, but I never tell him that. I believe in exercising discipline over affection. He goes to training 2-3 times a week, I work with him at home as well.
Don’t shower your Westie with excessive love and affection because it can come back to bite you. It can make your Westie develop separation anxiety later, so better not get them so used to it from the start.
And remember, also, this is where training comes in.
3. Your Westie’s Everyday Routine Gets Disturbed
If your Westie follows the same routine each day, any disruption to his routine can trigger separation anxiety.
Sami’s routine involves regular mealtimes, walks, recreational activities, and bedtime. If his routine gets disrupted, he will become confused and tired. His stress level increases and he may start to exhibit unpleasant behaviors.
Try not to disrupt your Westie’s daily routine.
Apart from ensuring Westies socialize often, one should not over pamper them, and keep their routine the same.
Ways to Prevent Separation Anxiety
You can prevent your Westie from developing separation anxiety by doing the following:
1. Create a Balance between Affection and Discipline
Dote on your Westie, but at the same times, enroll him in several obedience and discipline training programs.
Or train your dog yourself by teaching him to obey basic commands, such as stay, sit, lie down, stop, and more.
Here’s a video of me training Sami to use the flight bag for an overseas trip:
2. Practice Gradual Separation
Get your Westie gradually used to you not being there.
Go outside for a few seconds and then increase it by a few minutes and hours, but never more than 8 hours.
If you have to, get a dog sitter or, as we always do, take him to a dog hotel. We are lucky that the same trainers we use for Sami also have a hotel for the dogs they train. This way, Sami has a familiar face to see and, also, he gets training and he plays with the other dogs there.
3. Go Out for Frequent Walks and Exercises
When you return home, take your Westie out for a walk to the park or in the neighborhood each day. This will make him more sociable and keep separation anxiety at bay.
4. Visit Your Vet
If nothing helps and your Westie’s separation anxiety doesn’t go away, consult your vet. Your vet can provide you with more solutions on how to help your dog cope with separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety isn’t an easy thing to overcome. You should start as early as possible and work from there. Our Sami is part of the family but, in the end, he’s still a – admittedly cute and fluffy – dog. We need to take care of him so he has the best life he can get.