You leave your house and your dog is barking up a storm and won’t stop all day. You come home after work and your dog has destroyed the blinds on your living room windows. You put your dog in his crate and he digs at the gate, trying to get out. These are some canine behaviors signaling your dog may suffer from Separation Anxiety.
Before you label your dog as having Separation Anxiety, make sure that the behavior only occurs when the dog is left alone. For example, if you have a dog that is destructive while you are at work, does he also tend to chew your valued belongings when you are at home?
Provide physical exercise:
One of the reasons why dogs are anxious when being left alone, is a lack of exercise. When you have a dog with behavior issues, such as constant barking or destructive behavior, the first step to eliminate the unwanted behavior is to provide physical exercise for the dog. A good 30 to 45 minute walk, just before the dog is to be left alone, is the best way to provide such exercise. The walk, on-leash, actually provides more stimulus and drains more energy, than a similar off-leash exercise.
When you walk your dog, ensure you require him to behave on the leash. Don’t allow the dog to walk you. You should expect your dog to walk on a loose leash, preferably next to you, not in front of you.
Review your arrival and departure ritual:
Another reason why a dog might display anxious behavior when the owners are not present, is that the dog has become accustomed to high level of excited energy at the owner's departure and arrival. Dogs learn over time, so if you and other family members always make a big deal out of leaving and arriving to the home, the dog has been conditioned to associate the happy, excited energy with these times. He is using the barking or destructive behavior to recreate this level of excitement when he is left by himself.Teach your dog to be in a more calm and balanced energy, by not speaking to him when you first arrive after being gone. In fact, if the dog is very excited, it is best to not touch or pay any attention to him in the first few minutes. Simply come in and put your things away and ignore the dog, until he has calmed down.Do the same as you leave him each day. Ask him to lay down and expect him to be calm. Don’t allow him to follow you to the door. Instead create a habit of him giving you space around the entryway of your house or apartment. To teach this, see our blog on teaching your dog not to bolt through doorways.
Provide a comfortable and nurturing environment:
We highly recommend that you crate your dog if he is displaying destructive behavior while you are away from home. Please be sure to introduce the dog to the crate slowly, and allow him to be comfortable being in the crate first before you leave him in the crate for long periods of time. The best way to introduce a dog to the crate is to remove the door and feed the dog inside the crate for several days. Put a comfy blanket or dog bed inside and let him sleep in the crate, without being locked in it.
Make being left home alone more fun by providing a special treat, like a bone or a chew toy, when you plan to be gone for a while. This will give your dog something to do, while you are away. Reserve this special treat for times when you are not at home, and take the treat away, when you are at home.If your dog barks a lot in the home, when left alone, play some music or talk radio. This background noise helps to calm the anxious dog and can also drown out any outside noises, that may cause an anxious or excited dog to bark for attention.
Practice while you are at home:
Dog behavior modification takes time. You have to repeatedly condition the dog to the new and wanted way to behave. To do this, practice often, for short sessions, when you do not have to leave your pet.Calmly set up the home as though you are leaving, put on the background music, give the special treat and leave the home as you usually would, but only for a very short time. When you come back, do not make a lot of fuzz over the dog, but rather be calm and ignore him. Take away the special treat and just go about your day.Repeat the short exercise again, each time allowing the dog to be left behind. The dog will associate your leaving ritual with calmness and with the understanding that you always return shortly.
I hope the information provided will be helpful to you, or someone you know. Please share our blog on your Facebook feed, and please comment below.
Until next time: Keep Your Paws on the Road!