Dogs with separation anxiety feel lonely, frightened, and increasingly panicked when their owners are away from them, even for brief periods of time. This separation anxiety makes sense in both a developmental and evolutionary context. After all, dogs are pack animals and your dog is completely dependent on you to meet her needs. Moreover, noises that are normal to people may be frightening to dogs with separation anxiety when their owners are away. If your dog panics when you leave or spends all of her time destroying things while you are gone, here’s what you can do to help with her separation anxiety.
Get a Crate
It’s dangerous for your dog to be spending her time destroying the house while you are gone. She could eat something toxic, jump through a glass window out of fear, or otherwise harm herself. Until the separation anxiety is gone, your primary goal should be protecting her. Get a crate that is large enough that she can easily turn around in it, and crate her when you are away. Dogs are used to sleeping in quiet dens, and while you might have to work to gently coax her in with treats at first, eventually most dogs grow to love their crates and actively seek them out. Your dog’s separation anxiety could even be cured by the crate alone as a result of the added sense of security the crate gives her. However, it’s important to note that your dog should not be left alone in the crate for more than six or so hours if she is an adult and no more than two or three hours if she is a puppy. Doing so may actually make separation anxiety worse.
Increase Security When You Are Home
A dog with separation anxiety often feels insecure even when his owner is home. You just might not notice it because your dog isn’t destroying the house when you’re around. Embarking upon a Nothing In Life Is Free training program can work wonders. To learn more about this program, click here.
Manage Departures and Arrivals
Both humans and dogs tend to get very excited when humans first come home. Dog owners who have dogs with separation anxiety may also inadvertently make a big deal out of leaving too. This can serve to increase separation anxiety. Work to make both your departures from your house and your arrivals at the end of the day as low key as possible. If your dog is spending the first ten minutes when you come home every day rejoicing, this is a sign that it’s time to work on being more calm when you first come in the door.
Give Your Dog Something to Do
Dogs rely on their owners as a source of entertainment and comfort, so it’s no wonder they hate it when we’re gone. You can make it easier for your dog by giving him something to do while you’re gone. A large rawhide or other dog chew toy can help your dog chew out his nervous energy. Also consider toys that require some work to get a reward. Get a kong and stuff it with tiny treats, or hide several balls somewhere where your dog has to work to get them. If you’re feeling really creative, you can hide treats and balls throughout your house (in areas where your dog is unlikely to destroy something trying to get them) for your dog to find throughout the day. Your dog will spend her day playing, sniffing, and chewing appropriate toys rather than destroying your house and howling at the neighbors.
Provide More Exercise
Dogs often become anxious when they’re not getting enough exercise, and one of the best ways to counteract this is, of course, to provide your dog with more exercise. Consider walking or running with your dog for 20-30 minutes each day before you leave. Helping your dog burn off nervous energy will likely keep your furniture and home intact while you’re gone.
Some cases of separation anxiety are so severe that they require outside professional help. If the above suggestions have not worked with your dog after several weeks, it’s time to contact a dog trainer. The good news is that separation anxiety is fairly easy to fix with proper training and it may only take a few sessions before your dog has calmed down and stopped destroying your house. Separation anxiety is never a reason to get rid of your dog, because every bad behavior can be turned around with proper help and intervention. Contact the American Association of Pet Dog Trainers here for a list of qualified trainers in your area.
Jean Donaldson-The Culture Clash
Patricia McConnell-The Other End of the Leash