Does your dog show signs of stress and anxiety when you leave for work each day, or when you leave the house for a day trip? Do you come home to find your usually well-mannered pet has chewed and destroyed everything in sight? Have the neighbors informed you that your pooch barks and whines incessantly when you're not home? If any of these signs sound familiar, your pet may be suffering from pet separation anxiety.
Fortunately, there are ways to ease your pet's stress when being left alone, but it may take some effort on your part. Ask your vet about ways to control your pet's separation anxiety and you may find the following measures are recommended:
1. Re-Condition Your Pet
What does this term actually mean? In simple terms, to re-condition (or counter-condition) your furry friend, you will need to replace the fear of being left alone with something pleasant and serene. The main objection here is to help your dog associate being left alone with something the animal enjoys. Because most dogs enjoy eating tasty food and treats, you might use food as an incentive.
Each time before leaving the house, place a yummy treat for your dog where it can easily be found. For best results, offer something that will take a while for your pet to consume. Perhaps you can "hide" some dog treats inside an interactive dog toy. It will provide a distraction as your dog tries to get to the treats inside. This will also keep your dog busy for a while as you're away. In time, your pet will associate a "reward" with being left alone.
Another way you might re-condition your dog is by leaving behind a worn clothing item of yours. Your pet will recognize your "scent" and possibly feel connected to you when you are not at home. You might also leave the TV or radio on at a low volume before you leave the house. Tune in to a station that plays soft music and avoid anything too loud.
2. Desensitize Your Dog
The desensitization method will involve leaving your pet alone for short periods at a time during the day. As your dog gradually adjusts, increase the amount of time you are away. If you feel uncertain of how to go about this, you might consult a veterinary behaviorist for advice. However, the basic idea is to initiate a graduated departure plan each day.
Begin by leaving your pet alone for just a few minutes. Walk out of the house, and stay just outside the front door. If your dog has shown good behavior when you return inside, reward him or her with a treat. You may increase the time you are away gradually each day. Perform this process daily. The goal is to have your pet "desensitized" to your absence, eventually for hours at a time. Remember, this has to be a gradual method, so start out slowly.
3. Provide Mental Stimulation for Your Canine Companion
Some dogs experience separation anxiety simply because they do not know how to occupy themselves when their owners are away. A simple solution may be to provide some much-need mental stimulation for your dog while you are at of the house. Preventing boredom for your pet might have a calming effect and counteract the undesirable behavior.
Leave behind plenty of favorite toys and rotate them on a daily basis to eliminate boredom. Give your dog a "job" to complete while you are away from home. Encourage your dog to play the "hunting" by foraging for treats and toys you've left scattered around the house.
Another good idea is to tire your pet before you leave for the day. Offer your pet some stimulating exercise and play time before you leave for work. Take your pet for a walk before it's time for you to make your daily exit. This may tire your dog just enough to take a nap while you're gone.
As an alternative, you might consider offering your dog mental stimulation in the form of companionship while you're away. Consider enrolling your pet in doggie daycare. Your pet will be well taken care of in your absence, and be given the chance to interact with other dogs and caretakers. Boredom may be eliminated and separation anxiety may become a thing of the past. If you prefer, hire a pet sitter to come in and provide some daily interaction for your dog.
If all else fails, consult a local vet through clinics like Seattle Emergency Veterinary Hospital. They can provide further insight based on the breed of your dog.