Dogs are pack animals and social creatures. They form strong attachments to other dogs and people. With an increase in those who are gone for long hours and have a busy schedule, it’s important to help your dog stay alone. It is critical that your dog understand that your absences are tolerable and temporary.
Separation anxiety occurs in the first hour of your dog being left alone. Keep in mind that your dog’s dependence on you is significant, and it is likely to cause anxiety when you leave. Although this might be flattering, it’s not fair to your dog to be so stressed by your absence. Signs of separation anxiety occur when your dog is prevented from being close to you. Like people, dogs cannot stay in an uncomfortable state of anxiety for too long, and will resort to doing anything to reduce the tension.
Here are some circumstances in which separation anxiety can occur:
- Too strong of an attachment to one person.
- Separation from his mother and littermates.
- Owners who let their dog follow them wherever they go and who bring their dog everywhere they go.
- A very exciting departure and welcome.
Here are some signs of dogs trying to reduce their separation anxiety:
- Destruction, digging, chewing, or excessive vocalization.
- Hyperactivity, depression, or aggression.
- Diarrhea/vomiting, urination/defecation.
How to help you and your dog cope:
- If all else fails, ask your veterinarian about drug therapy. A good anti-anxiety medication shouldn’t sedate your dog, but simply reduce his overall anxiety.
- Take your dog to a doggie day care facility or kennel when you have to be away.
- Leave your dog with a friend, family member, or neighbor when you’re away, or use a pet sitter.
- Take your dog to work with you, if possible.
- Use a pet door in conjunction with an invisible fence so your dog can get out of the house and run around. This will help him burn off some energy and anxiety..
How to treat separation anxiety:
- Ignore your dog when leaving.
- Mix the leaving routes (the back door, garage, and so on).
- Practice false departures.
- When you return, be as calm as possible. Do not display any excited behavior or rewards.
What won’t help:
- Punishment. Punishment isn’t effective for treating separation anxiety and can make the situation worse.
- Another dog. Getting your dog a companion usually doesn’t help an anxious dog because his anxiety is the result of his separation from you, and not just the result of being alone.
- Crating. Your dog will still engage in anxiety responses inside a crate, and he may urinate, defecate, howl, or even injure himself in an attempt to escape. Instead, create other kinds of “safe places” for your dog.
- Obedience training. While formal training is always a good idea, separation anxiety isn’t the result of disobedience or lack of training.
Here are some other tips:
- Leave clothes with your scent on them around the house.
- If your dog is left outside, hang an old bike tire, a bunch of dish rags knotted together, or a shoe from a tree so that your dog can play with them. Do not use a leash or tie-out, this can injure your pet when you are gone. It is better to use an underground dog fence or wireless dog fence to contain your dog safely.
- Put the radio on a talk station and leave it on while you’re gone. The noise muffles any other kinds of sounds your dog might worry about and it’s comforting. He hears the same sounds as when you are home.
It’s not fully understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and others don’t. But it’s essential that you be as understanding as possible of your dog’s behavior. He needs your help with finding the best solution to alleviate the tension of your being gone and of him being alone.