Does your dog exhibit bad behavior when you leave the house? Do you come home to find that your dog has ripped up all the toilet paper or chewed up your favorite pair of shoes? Does your dog have accidents in the house only when you’re not there? Does he cry or howl and dig at doors in windows in an attempt to get out?
If you’ve noticed any of the above behavior, your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is not a way to get back at you for leaving them. It is simply a panic response to being left alone. It can happen at any point during a dog’s life but tends to happen once a routine is broken. For instance if you’ve been working from home for the last 5 years and you’ve all of a sudden transitioned to an office job. Now your dog doesn’t understand why you are suddenly not available all day long and panics when you leave the house.
Separation anxiety can be severe and may need the help of a professional animal behaviorist. However, there are several things you can try on your own before you call for backup.
- When you leave the house, leave an item that smells like you with your dog. An old t-shirt works well. Just having your scent with him may be enough to calm your dog down while you are away.
- Keep your departures and arrivals from the house times of calm. Don’t make a big deal out of leaving or coming home. This can add to your dog’s anxiety level. Quietly leave the house and come home when you can.
- Establish a safety cue. Whenever you leave the house, do something that lets your dog know you’ll be back. You can leave the radio on or the TV on for him, or give him a special toy. Practice this with your dog by doing this action and then only leaving for a little bit. Gradually increase the time you are gone and soon your dog will associate this action with the fact that you will be back soon.
- Give your dog something to do. Toys like kongs are great for keeping your dog occupied while you are away. It allows them to focus on something other than the fact that they are missing you.
- Desensitize your dog to your comings and goings. There’s probably a good chance that your dog has certain triggers that let him know you are leaving. This may be getting your car keys out or putting on your coat. Do these things around him when you don’t leave the house. Jingle your car keys and then go sit on the couch. Put your coat on and watch TV. Pretty soon your dog will learn to not associate these behaviors as triggers for you leaving.
Separation anxiety can be a serious problem for some dog owners, but with a little work and patience, you should be able to calm your dog and alleviate his anxiety when you leave.
Photo by *christopher*