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Staffy Anxiety Problems and How to Solve Them

Given their extremely loyal personalities, it's no surprise that Staffordshire Bull Terriers have anxiety issues. Honestly, I don’t think there is a more owner-loving breed than a staffy.

While it’s nice your dog loves you this much, it can cause various issues for both you and your pup. In this article, we’ll explore the problems caused by this infliction and offer some solutions to help curb this behavior.

Staffy Anxiety Problems

What Causes Staffy Anxiety Problems

Although there’s no proven single cause of separation anxiety, there are specific factors that are common among dogs with this issue. For example, shelter dogs have this behavior much more than dogs that have grown up in the same families their whole life.

It’s a common belief a loss of a family or a single person is a factor in cultivating this issue in a dog. Given the attachment issue that causes separation anxiety, this isn’t a big surprise.

A change of schedule is also a recurring element in many separation anxiety cases. Let’s say you get a new job, and it requires you to stay away from home for more extended periods of time, this could cause your dog to experience anxiety.

Any significant change to a dog’s life can cause the development of separation anxiety. A recent death of a family member, moving to a new house, getting a new owner can all be contributing factors when it comes down to a dogs anxiety

In the end, it’s about a change in the consistency of their life. As you know, dogs are relatively routine based animals. They like to know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen in their lives every single day.

Separation Anxiety Signs in Dogs

Separation anxiety is first seen when a dog becomes noticeably upset when their owner leaves. I know, this sounds normal and, usually, nothing serious will happen. However, this anxiety can result in some hazardous situations for dogs that become seriously affected.

There are a few more ways you can spot an anxiety problem with your dog.

For example, it’s common to see a dog with separation anxiety with bloody paws because of an ill-fated escape attempt: an attempt to find you. And given a staffy’s personality; there’s a real possibility you might come home to a scenario like this.

A staffy with separation anxiety might try to keep you from leaving. Either they’ll put themselves between you and the door or become oddly depressed right before you intend on going.

In other words, they’ll do anything to avoid being alone. They’ll try anything to make you stay through playing on your guilt.

When they’re alone, they’ll start barking or display other signs of stress: excessive drooling, panting, urinating/defecating, chewing, digging, pacing, etc. Each one of these is a way of getting rid of the excess energy brought forth from their anxiety.

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent this nightmare circumstance from happening every time you leave your home. 

How to Treat Anxiety in Staffies

In this section, you’ll find a couple of ways to help a staffy with separation anxiety overcome it. From counter-conditioning to crate training, it will all be discussed concerning dealing with this potential problem.

Counter-conditioning

Counter-conditioning sounds somewhat complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. The primary goal of counter-conditioning is to start making your dog associate you leaving with being a good thing.

For example, every time you leave your home give them a time-consuming treat such as a KONG toy stuffed with peanut butter. In doing so you do two things, distract and create an association.

In other words, the KONG will take your staffy’s mind off the fact they’re alone and make them start associating this period with getting a treat. You’re tricking them into thinking that them being alone is something they want. Kong toys are immensely popular for their ruggedness, here's one on Amazon.

Instead of fear and stress kicking in, these times will be filled with excitement and happiness. You’re using your staffy’s love of treats to bring out a feeling of security in the times you’re outside your home. 

You must remember to remove the treat as soon as you get home to ensure the association forms. If you don’t, your dog won’t grasp that they only get the treat when they’re alone.

Use a Crate

In some cases, a crate can do wonders for a dog with separation anxiety. Dogs can view a crate as a secondary home that offers a sense of security. After all, providing a secure environment is a crucial factor in treating this issue.

But some dogs get even more anxious inside a crate. Their anxiety will lead them to try and escape the crate when they’re alone. And the escape attempt could lead to dangerous/tragic consequences.

In light of this, make sure you monitor your staffy’s behavior during their crate training and observe how they act when they’re left in the crate at home. It’s essential you spend some time watching their reactions to being left in the crate when you’re home.

You can try feeding them inside the crate or leaving it opening during the day to see how they act towards it. If your staffy starts howling or barking, a crate probably isn’t the best option for you.

If this happens, try containing your staffy to one room with a gate or a gate-like structure. But never leave them inside a room behind a shut door. The feeling of being contained will add to your staffy's stress level and their anxiety will become much worse.

For more information, we have a full article dedicated to crate training.

Exercise

As a dog owner, one mantra you should always remember is a tired pup is a good pup. Try taking your staffy on a long walk right before you plan on leaving as it could rid of all their excess energy that gets turned into stress and anxiety.

If you don’t have the time for a long walk, you could try an extensive playing session right before you leave. Any substantial form of exercise could help relieve this debilitating behavior. Maybe try a game of fetch in the backyard for a good 5 to 10 minutes before you leave.

If you're struggling for exercise ideas, take a look at our article on exercise ideas for staffies.

After all, a tired pup might be too exhausted to exert the necessary energy for an escape attempt. They may even sleep the whole time you’re gone. It’s all about keeping their mind active and focused on anything other than you not being there.

12 thoughts on “Staffy Anxiety Problems and How to Solve Them”

  1. Hello, my son’s Staffy is a real problem – she has fear and anxiety related problems, though this is not caused by separation as both my son and I are always here. I have had dogs all my life and currently have a very chilled toy poodle, but this has not helped her. They came to live with me 3 years ago (she is now 6yrs old) and has steadily become worse.
    She will not go for walks, one sight of the lead and she shakes, hides etc – we have tried all kinds of things to encourage her, including different times, collar instead of harness, hot dog sausage, all of us going, one of us going etc.
    She will rarely go outside and begins to ‘freak out’ if she needs to toilet as she knows she has to go outside to poo. She hides in the smallest space she can find, she tries to get behind the TV so I have had to block side access with wooden panels – so now she tries to get between the glass shelves. Once she has been toilet (outside), she has a treat, then she smells her bum and begins to hide, shake etc. This often continue for hours.
    She is also terrified of every little noise and does the one loud, higher pitch bark (which nearly gives me heart attack everytime). Noises include car driving past house, next door neighbours talking, car doors opening & closing, people walking, cars in another street and many others that we cannot hear. Obviously thunder, fireworks etc are terrible. I have to have TV on (loud) all the time to try to drown out other noise – football works best.
    Her claws are so long now, because she will not even play in the backyard with any of her many toys. She will not let me clip her claws – I give her treat, encouraging voice,etc and clip one claw – give treat, encouragement etc after. Then went to hold her paw and she bit my hand, fortunately not badly, but she is becoming more and more disobedient and aggressive (that was the second time she ‘bit’ me).
    I have had large dogs in the past (German shepherd, retriever), but have never had a problem as intense as this and we are at a loss as to what to do.
    At the moment we are considering euthanasia, thoug I know this will break my son’s heart and is definitely a last resort.
    Can you offer any advice, I really don’t know what to do.
    Thank you, Corrine

    Reply
  2. The problem I have with my Staffy x Madrid is fear of noise both inside or outside.. Thunder..car doors closing..Dustin bin lids..in fact he is constantly listening for anything..when at home he goes upstairs into the spare bedroom trembling/drooling and generally looking frightened.. He is 5 years old and always been a little nerv but in the past 12 months has deteriorated.. I dread the fireworks in November as he will become a nervous wreck and I really don’t know what to do. Thank you

    Reply
  3. My staff is going though have in a teddy bear with her she carries about she only does every so often and then she fine after a few days

    Reply
    • Hi Pat, thanks for commenting.

      Dogs can have some strange behaviours when it comes to their toys. Sometimes, it can be a comfort thing but it could also be that your dog has simply grown to have a particular attachment to that teddy bear.

      It should probably not be a cause for concern as long as this behaviour doesn’t become a problem. For example, she becomes very protective of the teddy bear.

      I hope that helps,

      Laine @ Smiling Staffy

      Reply
  4. Please help I’m lost,
    I live both of my staffies and as soon as they leave they break into my house wether by eating and smashing through doors or smashing windows and once their in if they can see me they will break out the front through a window . I’ve had to replace windows doors blinds anything you name it and I’ve tried so many things but I’m in rentals and I’m forever rebuilding things . They even went as to eat a metal shed to access the house and no I didn’t put them in it I put in front of my back door. Please help I’m lost .

    Reply
    • Hello Taliah. Thanks for commenting, I apologise for the delayed reply.

      It seems like you have quite an extreme case on your hands. I’ve not experienced dogs being quite that destructive. I may be wrong and misunderstood the way it was written but it seems like your dogs are being locked out of the house while you are inside?

      If this is something they haven’t been used to for most of their lives, it could be difficult to improve the behaviour. Staffies are social and very loyal so having yourself in view while they are locked out for a long period would be frustrating for them. Keeping yourself out of their view or allowing them to be in the house with you could provide immediate relief of the issue.

      Otherwise, I would strongly suggest getting hold of a dog behaviourist and working with them in person as it seems like the separation anxiety is quite severe as your dogs are willing to smash through windows.

      I hope that has helped. Please let me know if I have misunderstood as I wasn’t too sure.

      Thanks again,

      Laine @ Smiling Staffy

      Reply
  5. Hi Laine,

    We adopted a beautiful 5 year old American Staffy x girl called Lola on 7th December 2019, and she has settled into our little family wonderfully. She loves her walks and loves being close to her humans, however does get quite bad separation anxiety when we are at work during the days. She is left alone at home from 8:00am – 4:00pm, she is left outside with a kong full of treats, a dentastix, bones, food & water, and a a shell pool (that she won’t go in), however the past 2 days she has manged to get out of the yard.

    The first day she jumped on the bins and over 2 timber fences, yesterday she climbed up the side gate (it has 2 panels sideways so she could climb up it) and jumped over. We have put up extra bamboo shading so that it is higher than the timber fence, and silky chair covers on the side with the gate so she can’t climb up it. I haven’t received a call so far from a neighbour to say that she has gotten out, however it is still early in the day!

    We take her for walks daily (unless its raining) and even took her in the morning instead however she still manged to get out. She has been chewing the end of her tail a bit too as we notice when we get home her tail is a bit red.

    When we do get home from work, she will whimper with excitement, will kiss us and be right at our feet for awhile until she gets comfortable again.

    Unfortunately we are only renting and do not have a doggy door from outside to inside, so our next option was either a magnetic fly screen we can attach to the back door and leave open so she can go in and out of the house as she pleases, or a shock collar…

    Any other tips or helps would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again,
    Clair

    Reply
    • Hi Clair, thanks for your question.

      At the moment, everything is still fairly new to her so it might take a while for her to become fully comfortable with her surroundings. She’ll probably also want to explore her new home so, if she sees an opportunity to climb out of the garden, she is likely to take it (many dogs would do the same).

      Amstaffs tend to be very high energy and athletic so you’ll need to take extra precautions when it comes to objects that could be climbed on and jumped from. Even when it might seem unlikely that they could get out, they’ll find a way so be thorough when assessing potential “escape” routes.

      I wouldn’t suggest the shock collar. I have never used one and they might be effective but I don’t like the idea of them so could not recommend that.

      The best solution, as you mentioned, could be to try and find a way where she can access the inside.

      We had a staffy that did suffer with separation anxiety when we first got him. I can’t pinpoint a single thing that solved it and he may have simply got used to the routine of being left but leaving an old piece of clothing with someone’s scent on it seemed to help.

      With a new dog, there is always going to be a period of trial and error and adjustment so patience is necessary.

      Hopefully, that helps. Be sure to keep us updated with how Lola gets on!

      Laine @ smiling Staffy

      Reply
    • Bunnings have $300 dog door inserts that u can lock to your screen or glass sliding door to so safe home happy staffy

      Reply
  6. Hi Clair

    Our 5 year old staffie Lola gets aggressive towards our son when he goes to leave the house, absolutely fine with him in the house. Please could you help as I’m not sure I would class it as separation anxiety as Lola has more of a bond with our Daughter, follows her everywhere but has no issues when we have to leave the house.

    Reply

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