It’s late and I’m all alone!
As social animals, being left on our own can be scary. We leave lights on for little kids when we send them off to their rooms, being sure to check for monsters under the bed beforehand. Dogs are social creatures as well and many never learned to be comfortable being on their own. Some dogs are just unhappy while others are downright panicked when they find themselves alone, especially in a new home.
There are ways you can help your dog.
Start off slow. Help your dog learn that when you leave you come back. Build the duration of your time away gradually.
An idle mouth is the devil’s plaything. Or something like that. Be sure your dog has something to do when you leave. Stuffed food dispensing toys are great. Fill them with dampened kibble or other yummy food, put them in the freezer and hide them around the house when you go out. A full belly can help calm down a dog, but be sure they had plenty of time outside before you leave them so they don’t have any accidents in the house.
Get some playtime in before you go. Dogs are most active in the early morning and early evening. Give them some action and exercise, let them run and explore before you leave them with their breakfast. Adult dogs snooze a lot during the day so it shouldn’t be a difficult routine to get into for them. Make sure that when you are home that your dog does more than just sit around and wish you’d do something with them. Give your dog a life.
Save super good treats and toys for when you leave. Pick them up when you return and only bring them out again when the dog is going to be on their own.
There are calming music CDs and plug-ins and scents that can help soothe a dog while you’re away. Fill your CD player with calming music and spritz some DAP or essential oils before you go.
If your dog is destructive and you are not sure if it’s boredom or separation anxiety, set up a video camera to record what is going on when you are gone.
There are medications which vets can prescribe to help lower a dog’s anxiety level. As upsetting as your dog’s behavior may be to you, and neighbors who may complain about non-stop barking, it’s the dog who is suffering the most. Do whatever you can to help them, including the consideration of vet prescribed medications.
These books can help you learn more about how to treat separation anxiety.
If you live in the northeast of the U.S. you might be interested in this upcoming seminar on separation anxiety.