Dogs are very social animals and as you meet your Dog you develop a strong bond. However, sometimes that bond goes beyond a healthy state to the point that the dog cannot be away from you for a moment. Most often there is a psychological reason for this behavior and the majority of the dogs that suffer are a result of past abuse, coming from a shelter, puppy mill, pet store, or had multiple owners. It’s no wonder the dog may feel unworthy of love. It feels like when you leave, you aren’t going to come back.
Your dog may display signs of distress when left alone and over-attached to you when you are home. It is important to realize that a dog is not displaying separation anxiety out of spite or boredom. They are not trying to punish you or retaliate for any reason. Separation anxiety is a real problem facing your dog that needs to be addressed.
The best you can do for your dog is fulfill those moments when you do have to be away with things that will keep your dog busy . . . but not destructive. Purchase special puzzle toys for your dog and only provide them when you will be gone. The goal is for your dog to associate the puzzle toy with your departure. Choose a puzzle toy that you can fill deeply with your dog’s favorite treat such as peanut butter or soft cheese. Place the item in the freezer after it is filled which will make the treat last longer. Your dog will chew on that acceptable puzzle treat toy for hours. Have several of these special toys hidden around the house where your dog will be staying for long term activity until your return.
Doggie daycare or a pet sitter/pet walker may help an overly anxious dog though it can be costly. Some researchers swear that some soft music can calm a dog’s nerves. Take your dog for a walk before leaving the house. Expelling some of your dog’s energy before you depart will leave him/her a little more relaxed when you go.
A very difficult task which may help is to decrease your bond with your dog when you are home so the pain is not so deep when you leave. It is a matter of training your dog to be a little more dependent. Professional training may be required but some of the things you can do are to teach your dog to stay. Place your dog in his/her bed and command the dog to stay while you move further and further away. With each step further when the dog obeys, provide a teat. If your dog does not stay, lead him/her back to the bed and repeat the stay process (with no treat – a treat is only when the stay command is performed). Repeat the exercise often every day and for longer periods – you going further and further away. Don’t forget the treat. This is the real reinforcement.
If you have an anxious dog, trips out of the home should start with short trips. Don’t leave your dog all of a sudden for eight or more hours. Start with an hour or two and build up so your dog knows that you always come back. Treat your dog with goodies and praise when you come home to find a nice clean house. However, do not punish or yell at your dog if not. That only instills further anxiety.
Reports are that it is not a good idea to put an anxious dog in a crate. They could hurt themselves trying to get out. An anxious dog most often comes from an abusive relationship, reviving that abuse while placed in a crate like a forgotten bad dog. In many cases like ours, though, dogs are housebroken with crates and introduced to crates as a form of security for your pooch. Our dogs consider their crates as their “bedrooms” and a safe haven with their own beds, blankets, and a favorite toy. Their crates have never been used as a form of punishment. They are left open when we are home and our dogs go in on their own free will when they want to find solitude.
For further advice on how to handle your dog through separation anxiety, go to – http://www.petplace.com/dogs/separation-anxiety-in-dogs/page1.aspx. There is a multitude of information to help your anxious dog be more comfortable in your absence, happy upon your return.